Behind the Scenes: Claude Guillaume of Davio's

Davio’s general manager Claude Guillaume runs the Phipps Plaza restaurant like a pro- and he is. His resume of restaurant management in Atlanta includes the now closed five starred Seeger’s. The French native Guillaume says the hospitality industry is vastly different in America than France. Here he tells about his 22 years in Atlanta’s restaurant scene.

Over the time that you have worked in Atlanta, how have you seen your role as manager change?

You have to be more hands-on, because managers now have to do more with less. Managing has become more efficient thanks to technology, whether it’s accounting or invoices. When I first started working, you’d have to write down the exact time your employees came in. I would spend hours working on the payroll.

Coming from France, how does the service differ in America?

It’s a different approach when it comes to service. In France, it’s not as engaging and the servers are more distant. They don’t engage in small talk. In America, servers take better care of their guests. They are more welcoming, and the hospitality is more aggressive.

How did you distinguish yourself as a manager for the five years you were at Seeger’s?

The guests do us a favor by coming in, so as soon as they step into the restaurant, you need to show them a welcome. I was the one who took the reservations, called to confirm. When guests came in, I would be at the door to welcome them, and when they left, I would say thank you and goodbye. It taught me how to learn about out guests and I connected with the community. It was the best thing that happened to me in Atlanta.

How did your role change?

We were never looking to be five stars, we just wanted to be great. But when we got them, we had to make quick changes, like increasing the amount of courses on our pre-fixe menu. You get a lot of pressure and that is good because you are always challenging yourself and it challenges the guests with what you are serving. Seeger’s taught me discipline and that you should never compromise the standard.

You’ve been general manager at Davio’s for four years. How do you make the restaurant, which has other locations across the nation, your own?

At first many people looked down on it because it was a mall restaurant. But some of the best restaurants are in mixed-use buildings, like Per Se in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. It doesn’t matter where the location is. Each Davio's is personalized. This is my restaurant and while we have certain guidelines for the design and some of the classic recipes, it is through the local eye.

Davio’s is known for pulling in celebrities. Who have you seen lately?

We’ll have celebrities stay at the nearby Buckhead hotels and order food to-go. Lately I’ve seen Kim Kardashian and her husband, also Robert Redford, and the Phillies MLB team. Since there is a Davio’s in Philadelphia, I think the Phillies feel familiar with us.

I heard that you quit smoking cold turkey. Why the change?

I was smoking all the time and it was a war at the house. I’d even wake up in the middle of the night and go downstairs to smoke. One year my family went on Spring Break in Florida, and when I came back I just quit and started running. It was tough, but I needed to make up for lost time.

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