I just returned from Barcelona. It’s one of my favorite cities. There was a scientific meeting. I spent time talking business with researchers turned entrepreneurs. I also spent a lot of time touring the city and eating tapas, one of my favorite food groups.
I always head to Ciudad Condal Cerveceria in the Eixample district. It’s like heaven, with tapas.
The bar has wood-paneled, vaulted ceilings and a bar area full of marble and brass. It’s like entering a church for tapas. Then there are the people, and I mean all of the people inside the tapas bar. Of course, you can sit along the boulevard under the umbrella tables in the outdoor eating area. Or you can eat at the tables in the restaurant area of the tapas bar. But then you would miss all of the action.
The best spot in the place is to be seated or standing at the bar area. It’s where the tapas art happens: the high intensity interface between the customers and staff. All of the fresh, raw food is beautifully displayed. The waiters, waitresses and bar tenders have on elegant white coats. They know their stuff and they make and serve the tapas with pride. You marvel as they work together, as a team. They are engaged with their customers. Each plate of tapas is served, eye contact and a smile is made.
The food transaction doesn’t end there. Often conversation with your waiter follows. They make more suggestions about what you might like to eat, based on what you have been ordering, or even what their own favorite tapas are. They encourage you to experiment, if they think you are up for it. I’m always up for it and I’ve always been delighted about how these folks can pick up on signals and fine-tune my dining for me.
The locals go to this tapas bar, lots of them, and it’s constantly full all day long. And of course the tourists are at the tapas bar as well. Everyone takes a look at what everyone else is eating, smiles, rates the tapas by making a comment or giving a thumbs up – understood in any language. If someone sees you eating the tapas incorrectly – or thinks you should combine it with some other type of tapas you have in front of you – they suggest this to you, respectfully, with a smile.
That’s why I go to this particular tapas bar. It’s noisy, joyous, collaborative, delicious. It’s theater without pretense. Everyone is there to be together with everyone else. It’s like a party we all have been invited to. The comfort level of being in the same space, with hundreds of friends I never knew I had before I stepped inside, is palpable.
All of us come to this tapas bar to be with each other. Because when we are at the tapas bar, everyone is the same.
We’ve been drawn into this hallowed tapas space by a mutual love of that dish. We work together so everyone has a joyful customer experience. We are patient as we wait for a seat at the bar or decide to stand. No one becomes flustered at the wait. No one hovers over your table.
We respect the lovers in the corner, who are nibbling each other intermittently, and then remember their tapas. There is the priest seated next to the lovers, alone with his own thoughts, obviously a regular. There is the man to the left of my husband, who is sits on a stool, who offers it to my husband when he sees I have a stool but my husband does not. My husband smiles and declines; he would have done the same thing for this man whom we have never met until tonight. The man’s friends arrive to join him, and they stand. The man makes suggestions on how we should mix up a certain egg dish we’ve ordered. He’s right; the food tastes so much better mixed this way.
Everyone at the bar is the same.
Once you enter this space, your job title, education, pretense and stress levels are left outside in the street. We are each others’ company across time zones and countries and cultures and backgrounds.
We are here to enjoy the evening, together.
It is heaven.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.