Brava Bistro explains the secret receipe to its success
Walking into Brava Bistro, on Calgary’s trendy 17th Avenue, you’ll notice that there is something a little different about it.
Aside form the welcoming décor, private tables, and great lighting, you’ll also notice the exceptional friendliness of the staff and the welcoming atmosphere.
That staff friendliness and the culture of Brava Bistro start with its managing partner, Dewey Noordhof.
“There’s a quote from the poet Maya Angelou, that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Noordhof says of his vision for Brava.
His vision has become a reality, as it seems like every person who enters the restaurant, from lawyers to university students, leave with a smile on their face.
“What I want us to be recognized for is providing a consistent, welcome environment. I want people to consider this place almost like a second home.”
Brava Bistro’s second home type of environment is created by hardworking, friendly staff that are as knowledgeable as any in the industry.
Brava’s staff interacts with their guests from the time the walk through the door, until the time they leave. They offer to help them with little things like hanging their coat up and offering purse hooks for the tables.
These courteous staff make Brava more than just a restaurant to their guests.
“For me it’s so important to find the right people that are just real good people,” Noordhof says.
“I hire more on character and personality then I do based on experience. Experience is nice, but I can teach anyone the technical side of being a waiter, but I can’t teach empathy, how to read people, and how to genuinely care about people.”
Because of that, Brava doesn’t have much turnover with its staff. Combined, sous chef, Eben Brummitt, server, Heather Franks, and server/bartender Paul Mitschke have over 20 years experience at Brava alone.
“A good way to describe us is family,” Mitschke says. “We all have each other’s backs. I trust everyone who works here.”
Franks says trust among the staff is crucial to Brava’s customer service.
“It starts from the top, because Dewey gives us so much freedom to do things. We all respect each other and I think that shows.”
Franks added, “We need to all respect each other so the restaurant has a flow to it. We’re a tight machine from accounting to the kitchen. You can’t take one person out or it won’t work.”
“We want to come to work and we laugh all the time.”
Manager Noordhof says his restaurant’s atmosphere depends first of all on the staff.
“I consider my staff to be more important then the customers. And what I mean by that is you can’t even start to preach about customer service unless you have a culture where the staff treats each other well, and if the staff is comfortable and happy the customer service happens after that.”
“My position isn’t more important then theirs. If anything theirs is more important then mine. For example, if the toilet backs up tonight, I’m getting my gloves on. It’s more important for my staff to do their jobs.”
Sous chef, Brummit says he hopes that people take away that the staff at Brava really care about the food they serve and the time that customers have when dining at the restaurant.
“I’d describe our food as comfort food with a professional twist to it.”
Some of the staff favourites are the mussels, crispy chicken, short ribs, and the spinach and bacon salad. Prices of these favourites range from 15 to 30 dollars.
Along with the great food, Brava has an award winning wine list.
Noordhof says he thinks a good wine list will have two or three choices in each price range for each kind of wine.”
“I don’t put anything on the list that I wouldn’t buy myself.”
Because of their great food, fine wine and a friendly staff, Brava was voted Calgary’s best all around restaurant by Avenue Magazine this past spring.
“When I’m done with the restaurant business, I’d be totally ok if the only reason they remember this restaurant is because of how welcome they feel here.”
A lot of the customers that frequent Brava will say that Dewey is Brava, and Brava is Dewey. Dewey disagrees with that statement.
“Brava wouldn’t be Brava without the people who come here.”
“I hope people that come in leave being fed really well, with prices that aren’t arrogant, and they know that we appreciate that they came in.
Brava is located at 723 17th Avenue S.W. and can be contacted at 403-228-1854. They are open for lunch (11:30am-3:00pm) Monday to Saturday and for dinner seven days a week (5:00pm-10:00pm, late on weekends). Reservations are recommended to ensure a seat, but there is generally room at the bar in the event a table is not available.