San Angelo is a small town in West Texas, hours from the flashier cities in the Lone Star State, but it’s filled with 5-star businesses that help put the town on the map.
In this Community Spotlight series from Behind the Review, Yelp Elite reviewer Josh H. connects with his favorite local business owners to talk community building, business tips, and more. Read all their stories.
Welcoming and warm with a gourmet menu, Peasant Village is unlike any other restaurant in San Angelo. “From the moment you walk in, it feels high end, but not pretentious. You feel VIP even though you’re not necessarily VIP—the caliber of professionalism of the hosts, the look in the modernity of the venue just feels different than anything else in San Angelo,” Yelp Elite reviewer Josh H. said. “It puts you somewhere else, and it stays with you when you leave.”
Chef Jason Helfer founded Peasant Village with his father on the principles of creativity and great customer service. After thirty years in business, Jason continues to innovate upon his family legacy with techniques that make the residents of San Angelo feel like VIPs.
Below, he shares how he’s kept the customer experience feeling fresh and modern for over three decades.
1. Experiment with your offerings
Peasant Village aims to evoke an emotional response through food, surprising and delighting customers with combinations that feel familiar and new at the same time. Reviewer Josh experienced this when trying the duck brie egg rolls, a seasonal dish that fused several cuisines into one delicious appetizer. “There’s a food adventure there, so you can try something new that you’ve never had before,” he said.
As head chef, Jason is very intentional about creating these moments of culinary discovery. Adding seasonal dishes among the staple items keeps the customer experience fresh, allowing him to appeal to new audiences while still satisfying regulars. “As a chef, I have to stay creative,” he said. “My mind has to keep on changing and evolving with today’s palates, whether it be gluten intolerant or allergic to garlic, or you don’t like this or that. And so I try to create dishes or specials to accommodate [people who] are looking for that.”
Changing up the menu also boosts morale for kitchen staff, who can get burned out by cooking the same items every day. Jason encourages them to experiment with their own creations, which provides a sense of ownership in the business—plus, the restaurant gains fresh, exciting menu items in the process.
“I give that opportunity to the back of the house to be creative as well because you do get stagnant creating the same dishes over and over again,” he said. “If it’s great, if it’s a homerun run, fantastic. If it’s not, we know not to do it again.”
2. Help your employees take care of themselves
In his three-decade career in the food industry, Jason worked in many restaurants with hostile work environments. Constantly striving to please temperamental chefs, he wasn’t able to do best work. So when he opened his own restaurant, he wanted to create an environment where his employees felt supported and valued.
“I give them the opportunity to take care of, first of all, themselves,” Jason said. “I wanna make sure that their mind is right when they come in. I wanna make sure they’re in a good mood, they’re happy, and they wanna be there.”
That can mean taking time off or a quick breather if things aren’t going well. It’s not often that staff in a busy restaurant are encouraged to take a moment to rest, but Jason believes it’s crucial to their well-being and happiness, which in turn encourages great customer service.
“We need to start listening to our staff and saying, ‘Hey, what can I do to help you feel better when you’re here?’” Jason said. “And if they’re having a bad day, I say, ‘You know what I’d like for you to do? Go sit outside, go across the park for 15, 20 minutes. Gather your thoughts together. And if that doesn’t happen, and you’re still in this frame of mind, then go and take the evening off.’”
3. Give customers the VIP treatment
Everyone at Peasant Village is given VIP treatment from the moment they walk in the door. If there’s a wait, the host will offer guests a seat at the bar or a cocktail. “It’s [about] making them feel wanted, making them feel important, because they are,” Jason said.
No matter how good the food is, customer service can make or break a customer experience, Jason said: “If the food is off that day, they’ll go back and give it a chance. But if the service is not right, but yet the food is just incredible, they’re not gonna go back.”
“Being able to talk to a chef that isn’t talking down to you, but talking with you about the passion for making food,” Josh said. “That calming, soothing, welcoming feeling you get from the staff—I experienced it. I want to keep experiencing it again myself. The next best thing I can do is make sure other people hear about it, become aware of it, and go get that experience too.”
To ensure that every customer feels important, Jason also makes rounds to each table to thank them personally and answer any questions. This level of attention and accessibility impressed Josh H. so much that he noted it in his Yelp review.
Interviews by Emily Washcovick; photos from Peasant Village
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Mona and Nicole, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
Community spotlight: San Angelo, Texas
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