Boasting three of the top 10 restaurants on a ranking of the world's 50 best, of any country in the world on the new world's 50 best, Spain has emerged as a culinary powerhouse. But its restaurants are also gaining recognition for the opertional innovation. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, the No. 3 restaurant on the World’s 50 Best list, recently received attention for providing its employees weekly on-site therapy from a psychologist.
Here are four other ideas plucked from Spain that address problems likely to be familiar to any U.S. operator.
1. Service buzzers
La Gabinoteca in Madrid, where Anthony Bourdain dined on his show "No Reservations," uses small technological tabletop devices and wristbands that allow diners to call a server to their table or request their check with the press of a button. The wristband then either buzzes or flashes a light at the server to indicate that a dining table needs attention.
An alternative to tabletop tablets, this simple device could provide solutions to full-service venues struggling with service during peak hours.
2. Anything can be a food hall
Looking for a place to build a food hall? How about an out-of-business movie theater? A couple of years ago, Plateau Madrid transformed an abandoned movie theater into a multilevel food hall with multiple restaurants and bars and an elevated stage—an homage to the venue’s past—that features performances on weekends such as aerial acrobatics.
3. Get creative with space
Back at La Gabinoteca, which is filled to capacity on most nights, the restaurant makes the most of its indoor space to seat the greatest number of diners possible. It uses its stairways and even its walls for additional dining space. Specially purchased tables and chairs span the exact width of each stairway step, and small tables and seats for two are built into hollowed-out wall spaces.
4. Keep the menu around
Tapas 24, from Michelin-starred chef Carles Abellan, offers a list of tapas snacks and coordinating prices on the paper container that holds cutlery. The subtle menu placement is useful to guests looking to add on an additional tapas order at a later point during their meal.