The place isn’t for everyone. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. It’s a bit confusing. But if you drop all pre-conceived notions of staid, orderly eateries, the Guu Japanese restaurant in Vancouver’s West End may be one of the most entertaining meals you’ll ever enjoy.
The moment you enter, the hostess shouts hello, which is repeated by the uber-busy chefs in the very visible kitchen and the busy-as-bees wait staff. Every order and course delivery is shouted from one worker to another to another with the repetition taking on a comical rhythm. Side dishes of witty banter — albeit hard to understand unless you speak Japanese — break out among co-workers in the course of their job, and it’s very apparent they’re having fun.
Get beyond the seeming disorder and you’ll see the frenetic movements of the staff are more like a well-choreographed ballet. Three chefs work the long narrow kitchen dashing back and forth but with little wasted motion as the delicious dishes come together. The servers dart in, around and under people quickly delivering the various courses of meals. Service proves quick and exceedingly friendly. Visiting on a rainy Wednesday night, Guu projects a buzz of energetic activity where no table is open for more than a minute.
And practical business lessons are apparent if you pay attention. It’s a user-driven experience where you can order whatever you want whenever you want, with the attentive wait staff allowing (encouraging) you to re-order, add to an order or share plates all the time. The food is creative, delicious and well-priced. Staff members clearly have defined duties, but hustle to help in any area whenever needed. Whoever developed Guu’s restaurants — four dot the Greater Vancouver area — understood what Tom Peters calls spectacle: businesses with a performance component providing great customer service. Beyond the enthusiastic greeting, the staff always smiles and provides an infectious exuberance. It’s hard to imagine the atmosphere not putting you in a good mood.
Chances are you’ll leave a Guu restaurant energized, full and talking about it. Moreover, you’ll want to return … and wouldn’t you like that to be true of any place you go?