Being “Black Sheep” is about more than just working in a restaurant or being part of a hospitality group, it is having a shared dedication and belief that every opening and every new idea is about creating exceptional dining experiences. From the beginning, Chris and Asim knew that they needed to create something that was more than just four walls and good food, but that every restaurant had to invoke emotions and create moments that would transport guests to another time or place; Wholly immersive experiences that could lend themselves to creating long-lasting memories for every guest that walked through its doors.
While the restaurants themselves are the framework for these moments, what really drives every experience to the next level are the people. The teams on the floor and behind the scenes who make sure that, night-in and night-out, every guest gets the dedicated Black Sheep hospitality they have come to expect from us. The teams who, at the end of each night, keep a watchful eye out for something as small as a nod on the way out the door that lets them know that at least in some small way they succeeded.
Once in a while, when we are lucky, we get the emotions right and we hit it out of the park and we become part of people’s celebrations. We are able to create a moment that leaves an impact on a guest and the team long after they leave and we are reminded of why we love what we do, why this mix of excitement, unpredictability and spontaneity on the job is what keeps us on our toes every night and the reason we go back day after day. We asked some of our team to recall one of their most memorable guest moments over the years, and this is what they had to say.
Jonathan Leung, Director of Operations, SoHo
Back when I first started working here, we accidentally double-booked the VIP room for a birthday party and a bachelorette party, on a packed Saturday night. When the bachelorette party showed up and the room was already full, they were so upset that the bride started crying. Not the way you want to kick off anyone’s evening, let alone when they are celebrating something special. I asked them to wait while I sorted out a table, popped open a bottle of Champagne and ended up letting them drink on us for the rest of the night. The next day we got a really long email from the bride saying how great the night turned out and how much she appreciated it—which was a huge relief!
Palash Mitra, New Punjab Club
One of the most recent memories for me has to be around the Summer Festival Rajasthan Rifles cricket championship. It was an overwhelming challenge at times to pull, it was done miles away from my kitchens in excruciatingly hot and humid circumstances. There was no running water, electricity or cooling facilities in the ‘kitchen’ which was in the middle of nowhere. It was very physically draining for the team, yet everyone who dined there was grinning from ear to ear and had only good things to say, which really made it all worth it. This is why we do the work we do and we were so grateful that the response was so positive. All in all, it turned out to be the highlight of the summer!
Mina Ingram, Events Manager at Black Sheep Restaurants
We are lucky because we have some really dedicated guests, ones who join us for all sorts of special occasions, from promotions to farewells and first dates, and we are grateful they choose to share these moments with us. Sometimes we have the opportunity to thank them the best way we know-how, by providing a one-of-kind, unforgettable experience. We once had one of these very dedicated guests turn to our team to help with one of the most profound milestones in his life – his engagement! He wanted to propose at New Punjab Club with an eight-course journey of all their Black Sheep favourites, so along with our talented team of chefs, we curated a culinary journey through their eight years of togetherness, flooding the dining room with rose petals, flowers and candles, and after each course a story was shared that brought a huge smile and an occasional tear to her face. At the end, he presented her with a ring and proposed!
Josef Gallenberger, Buenos Aires Polo Club
Every guest moment is special. It is in our job description to make sure that the experience of every guest who walks through our doors is one that, to the best of our ability, is one they bring with them, positively, when they leave. Just yesterday, we had a guest who loves lobster, something we had just taken off our menu and he had been looking forward to trying. We decided that even though it was no longer on the menu, we would organised one to top up the steak he ordered. He was really blown away by it. It makes all the work worth it when we are able to make someone’s day like that.
Marinda Doppegieter, Associate Director of Guest Experience
We often receive requests to make a dinner or occasion that is celebrated at a restaurant special. But the ones we really enjoy are the ones that are a little bit outside of what we usually do, allowing us to be creative and go beyond our comfort zone. For example, one of our guests wanted to take his wife on a very special trip above the Hong Kong skies in a helicopter and end on top of The Peak. He wanted to reimagine the way he proposed to his wife 20 years ago, on a picnic blanket and invited us to be part of this special memory. We were able to arrange a beautiful set up in the Rose Garden on The Peak with spectacular views of the city and a curated menu from their favourite restaurant: Rajasthan Rifles!
Luca Marinelli, Osteria Marzia
One of my favourite memories with a guest is when a good friend of mine was in Hong Kong to open a restaurant. We knew each other from our hometown and had a lot of respect for each other. It was an honour to have the opportunity to cook for him, but the best part was when at the end of his meal, he came into the kitchen and we started to prep one traditional dish from our hometown together, to celebrate Christmas the following day with all our friends. This type of bond that chefs share is something unique and truly special.
Amy Stott, SoHo Operations
Many years ago at Ho Lee Fook we had what can only be described as a plumbing failure or the ‘poop flood’ as I like to call it. Mid-service, around 8pm with a full restaurant and a waiting list as long as my arm, we had to close the restaurant. A gent named Mike was visiting Hong Kong for one night and was due to celebrate his 50th with us before heading to Bali the next day. We arranged a table at Soul Food Thai and although he enjoyed it, this wasn’t enough for us. He had briefly mentioned they were staying at Shangri-La, so off we went with a card from the HLF team, fortune cookies and a bottle of Champagne to deliver to his room for an extra special surprise upon their return that night. He wrote us a fantastic review and reached out to say thank you for our outstanding customer service.
Nina Brown, Guest Relations
Recently we had a guest who was booked into La Vache! to celebrate her daughters’ birthdays with us. Twins, a double celebration no less. The day before their dinner, the guest reached out that they would not be able to make the dinner as she had suffered an accident and was in the hospital to undergo surgery. After checking that everything was ok, while we knew it wouldn’t be the same, we arranged to send some signature La Vache! desserts to them when back in the comfort of their home so that, albeit belated, the girls could still have a small Parisian birthday celebration from their favourite entrecôte steakhouse.
Billy Otis, Taqueria Super Macho
There are so many moments over the years that stick out. We have a very loud, cheerful crowd that frequents the Baja Beach Brunch. One week a gentleman was thoroughly enjoying himself: singing, dancing, the whole nine yards. He managed to knock over a pitcher of margaritas while sitting and it ended up in his lap. Party over? Absolutely not. Around ten minutes later I went to use the restroom and found him there doing a handstand against the wall, using the hot air from the hand dryer to solve his problem. Shortly thereafter he was back in the game, margarita AND beer in hand.
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