“Meet the gatekeepers who can make all your Dining Out dreams come true…” – Evening Standard

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They are the familiar faces who have been greeting you year after year when you arrive at Joe’s. They know your preferred table, your favourite drink and how you like your steak cooked. They know Joe Allen from the inside out, and without them ‘dinner at Joe’s’ just wouldn’t be the same. You’ve guessed it – we’re talking about our managers extraordinaire, Debbie and Stewart.

During a recent interview with the Evening Standard, the pair of laugh-a-minute characters shared 30 years  of funny industry insights. Stewart immediately set the tone of the conversation: ‘You always know who a person is joining. Friends tend to look alike. Much like people with their pets’ — and restaurant smarts, like, ‘People are nervous when they arrive, which can make them rude. You have to help them through it.’

‘A good maître d’ should know when a customer comes through the door where to put them in the room,’ says Fellows. ‘You’ll study the bookings and vaguely know where to put people but you need to allow the room to change.’

Indeed, the buzz for these experienced hands is not a super-smooth operation, but about balancing order with a bit of healthy chaos. ‘I like to work more like that than Debbie, where my plans can all go out the window,’ says Moss. ‘You can only learn it on the job — you have to get yourself into shit and then get yourself out of it again.’ Fellows adds: ‘Customers pick up on the good frenzy you’re in. They like it.’

It’s all about atmosphere, basically, and of course giving the celebs what they want. Specifically, ‘The table with all of the mirror by it. They want to be seen!’ Joan Collins is a regular, while Alexa Chung and Alexander Skarsgård have been in. However ‘the great and good of light entertainment’ are most treasured. ‘Blind Date used to come here after filming,’ says Moss. ‘The dates would come in with their luggage, and we’d be taking bets on them, while Cilla had a glass of champagne in her fur coat.’ But the real VIPs are not celebs: ‘In our book we have codes, WKF — Well Known Face — and VIPs, who are loyal Joe Allen customers.’

Moss concludes: ‘Look, your responsibility is to make sure people have a really nice time and want to come back. The goodbye is as important as the hello. I once said goodbye to a party of 20 in a different way to each person. I was exhausted by the end of it.’


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