3 Geeks: So, what inspired you two to try your hand at being restaurateurs?
Lena: Dan and I were partners at DCH for nearly 25 years…
Dan: We both made partner the same year.
L: Back when we were associates, we realized that we were both passionate about good food. We dreamed about one day opening a restaurant together.
D: A couple of years ago, Lena strolled into my office and said, “You know, Dan, I think it’s time. We’ve got the money. We’ve got the knowledge. We’ve still got the passion for good food. Let’s do it.”
L: So we went for it.3G: And you decided to go with a legal themed restaurant?
L: You know what they say, go with what you know, right?3G: A number of critics have faulted you for your unusual style. For instance, the average lunchtime meal at The Legal Duck lasts about 4 hours.
L: When we set out on this journey we decided we would take everything we had learned from our combined 70 years the legal business and apply it to running this restaurant.
D: We would provide only the finest foods, prepared by the finest craftsmen in the business. Our Partners and Associates are artists, creating unique and wonderful experiences for our customers.
L: Perfection takes time.3G: Which brings us to another complaint that I’ve heard about the food not living up to the promise.
L: Really? Where have you heard that?3G: Michelin gave The Legal Duck their first ever 2 Negative Stars.
D: Well, I don’t think their reviewer really understood the value that we are bringing to our diners. We are exclusively focused on providing the greatest meals to the people with the biggest appetites. We aren’t really interested in creating commodity food.3G: Which raises an interesting point. Michelin seemed to believe that’s exactly what they were getting.
L: In consultation with our service associate, the Michelin reviewer decided to have a simple sandwich, the “Big Mike”.3G: Yes, he described it as, “two grass-fed Kobe beef patties, a mild tomato and mayo spread, a sprig of romaine lettuce, gruyere cheese, thinly sliced gherkin pickles, Vidalia onions, all on a sesame encrusted brioche bun.” Doesn’t that remind you of anything?
D: It sounds like an amazing sandwich.
L: Yeah, my mouth is watering.3G: Changing the subject… You mentioned the initial consultation with your Service Associate. Can you talk a little about the unusual experience of dining at The Legal Duck?
L: Sure! You are greeted at the front door by our lovely receptionist and asked to take a seat in the waiting area.
D: We believe anticipation is a big part of an enjoyable dining experience, so we ask people to wait even if there are no other diners.
L: Once you are seated, you are visited by our Service Associate, who asks you a few questions about the kind of meal you are interested in having.
D: The kinds of meals you’ve eaten before? Who you’ve eaten them with? Etc.
L: Exactly. Then she or he will take that information and do some research on the kinds of meals that other people in your situation have eaten in the past. The associate, will consult with a more experienced Senior Service Partner or two and together they will draw up a customized menu for your perfect meal.
D: Then the entire service team will seek advice from an expert chef on the best method for preparing your meal, presentation suggestions, etc.3G: You mentioned your chefs, but I understand that you don’t actually have a kitchen in your restaurant.
D: That is correct. We’ve determined that the actual preparation of the food can be accomplished more efficiently and economically off site.
L: We have subcontracted food preparation to an industrial food services company that primarily caters to major airlines. We’ve found that they can prepare the food at a tenth of the cost that we could do it ourselves. We pay them ten times what the airlines pay and they give our meals priority. It really is a win-win.3G: But isn’t the preparation of food the actual service that you, as a restaurant, should be providing your customers?
L: (laughing) No. We work in conjunction with our customers to design and implement the perfect meal for their enjoyment.3G: Which someone else makes?
L: Yes.3G: Uh…OK. One final question: The average bill per diner for lunch at The Legal Duck is over thirty-five hundred dollars. First, how is that possible? And as a follow up, how do you justify those prices?
D: Yes, I admit our restaurant is expensive. But we provide unparalleled customer service and we stand by our work. We have only had to sue a handful of our diners for non-payment.
L: And thirty-five hundred is not so much when you realize how much work is being put into each meal. To produce the typical four-hour meal requires at least six hours of a Service Associates time at, let’s say, a hundred and fifty dollars an hour. Then each Partner is charging around three hundred an hour, Expert Chef’s don’t come cheap, maybe five hundred…
D: Yep, depending on the time of day. Then there’s the minor incidental expenses for the ingredients, the preparation, and of course, the delivery of the food. Before you know it, it’s real money.
L: But it’s worth it.
D: Yeah, we couldn’t be happier.