Every new member of the service team at Margot, Covent Garden’s covetable Italian restaurant, is given a handbook. Except, to describe it as a book doesn’t quite do it justice; this is a tome, a 150-page document outlining exactly what bosses Paulo de Tarso and Nicolas Jaouën expect of their staff. The training is just as rigorous – two weeks long with homework every night. This is what it takes to work at one of London’s finest restaurants, under the aegis of two of its most ambitious restaurateurs.
‘Our training is really, really tough,’ agrees Nicolas in the restaurant, as business partner and former front-of-house colleague Paulo sits alongside. ‘But after a while they get used to it – it's almost like breathing. They embrace it. Then it's no longer about the script, it's about understanding the needs of the table; it becomes instinctive.’
If this all sounds a little cultish then perhaps that is because in Britain we don’t tend to view service with such reverence. While most natives have pulled the odd shift in a pub, or worked the floor of a local restaurant while studying, few take it on as a career; fewer still stick it out past their twenties. Earlier this month a director of Pret a Manger revealed the company’s struggle to attract British workers to their service roles, estimating that applications from immigrant workers outnumber those from locals 49:1.