The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Traipsing Around Trim

The Route This morning we said our goodbyes to the irrepressible Madeline and headed east. The day was gray and drizzling again and it was dual lane motorway for the majority of the two-hour [almost] coast to coast trip, so there wasn't much in the way of scenery to share. Our final destination before our last night near Dublin airport is the town of Trim.

Goodbye Madeline and thanks for everything!

Highfield House is our very pleasant home for the next two days. The house was built in 1808 and served as a maternity hospital for years before falling into disrepair. The current owners have totally restored the place to its current comfy grandeur, with ten nicely-decorated en-suite rooms. As usual, we arrived a little bit early, but Gerry welcomed us warmly, offered us coffee and scones in the lounge, gave us some information about the area while she finished readying our room. It was obvious that she wanted us to have an enjoyable experience while we were in town, not simply to provide us a bed at night and breakfast in the morning.

Think about your own business. Are you and your staff focused on creating an overwhelmingly positive customer experience ... or simply content to handle the mechanics and meet basic expectations?

The town is most known for Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and the backdrop for many of the castle scenes in the 1994 Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. But there are mightly ruins scattered everywhere that seem to say, "This little river town was big time ... 750 years ago!" In slightly more recent history, Trim's local-boy-makes-good was Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

It was only two euros (for we geezers) to gain access to the castle grounds, three euros if we wanted to take a tour of the keep (main castle building). Margene passed on the tour, rightly guessing there would be a lot of climbing that would cause her poor knees to rebel, but I thought it was certainly worth an extra euro to see the inside of the castle. Alas, we arrived at 1:45 and the next available tour wasn't until 3:00. So we wandered the grounds, taking far more pictures that I will subject you to, then retired to one of the local eateries for an adult refreshment break (and to get out of the wind) until it was time for my tour to start.

In the great room of the keep were three scale models that showed the castle in its various stages of expansion. Our guide not only explained what the additions were, but why they had been made and the result on the defensive posture of the castle. Back in the day, all decisions were based on defensive strategy. Many of the walls and most of the floors had collapsed since the 1100s, of course, but the evidence was there to show where various features had been located.

Franzini's, located at the castle gates, isn't much to look at from the outside, but it is the top restaurant on every list I've seen of where to eat in Trim. They don't exactly have a bar but they did have a comfy seating area that was a great place to linger over an Irish coffee. So Margene relaxed and read while I climbed around the castle before joining her for an early dinner. She went for the pork belly, I tried the BBQ ribs. The portion of meat was massive enough, but coupled with a full ear of corn, a baked potato and a small salad, it was more than most mortals could eat in one sitting (not to mention incredibly messy!)

All this was complicated by a piled-on presentation on a too-small serving board and no receptacle for bones and the corn cob. The food itself was tasty, but I wish they would have given more thought to the actual process of eating it! I guess my point here is that the devil is in the details. While food quality is critical, it is equally as important to make the presentation as user-friendly as possible.

In this case, I think they could also have gone with a slightly smaller portion at (perhaps) a slightly lower price that would have contributed as much -- or perhaps more -- marginal profit. Spend some time in the dishroom watching what comes back from the table (and monitor "doggie bag" requests) to get a sense whether you are serving more food than guests typically eat. If so, do something about it. It can be a win-win move.

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