FLAT® has always believed that our success is directly measured by the solutions and success we bring to each of our client partners. From the very beginning, our focus has been recognizing the needs and desires of restaurant and hospitality owners and bringing easy to implement product solutions that provide the best experience for owners, staff, and their guests.
We love bringing the stories and testimonials from our clients who want to share how FLAT® products have helped them better serve their guests so they can focus on their passion of providing amazing dining and social experiences. Recently, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Abraham Merchant, owner and CEO of Merchants Hospitality, a NYC-based company that manages a wide variety of restaurants and bars across the greater Manhattan area.
FLAT® wants to thank Abraham, and the Merchants Hospitality team, for their willingness to share their experience with us, and their passion for creating world-class restaurant and hospitality experiences for all their guests. Here’s what Abraham had to say.
FLAT®: Tell me about the concepts that Merchants Hospitality manages.
Abraham: Well, we’ve been building and developing a wide variety of different restaurant experiences in New York that cater to a discerning clientele in one of the most competitive dining and entertainment cities in the world. We have restaurants and bars that run the gambit for style, cuisine, and locations, but in every case, we’ve made customer experience our top priority.
FLAT®: How many locations do you have?
Abraham: We currently have 14 restaurant locations as well as the Merchants Cigar Bar. We are in talks to expand to the Washington D.C. area, as well as potential future properties on the west coast and in Atlanta.
FLAT®: What are the most important things about the experience you want to develop for your guests?
Abraham: Hospitality is the number one priority in everything we do. It informs almost every decision we make as a company for any of our locations. We have a saying that we believe very deeply, “People will forgive bad food, but they won’t forgive bad service.” The ambiance, lights, music and tables are all important decisions to create the overall experience we want guests to have. We have to remind ourselves that most of our guests are going to be there at least 30 minutes before they get their food. So, the experience better be on point to keep them coming back.
FLAT®: How are you differentiating your brands in the crowded market?
Abraham: First, we do the baseline—good hospitality and good food. That’s just the starting point, though. We are constantly evaluating and pivoting to respond to the shift in market trends and taste. We are not trying to be trend chasers, but we are looking at what guests are gravitating towards and always considering how each of our concepts can leverage the opportunities. We take extraordinary measures to meet the expectations of our guests, and the go above those expectations to create delight.
I’m also a big proponent that our restaurants will not take advantage of any sort of bad situation, like COVID for example, to push predatory pricing habits or compromised service. We take a lot of pride in assuring our customers that we want to build a long-term relationship with them and be their favorite restaurant or bar for years to come.
We also take really good care of our staff. Having a well-supported and invested staff team translates directly to our guest’s experience.
FLAT®: How do you feel when you are having dinner at a restaurant and the table wobbles?
Abraham: It annoys me quite a bit. Sometimes I want to carry around some cheap wedges because I can’t stop thinking about it if I’m sitting at a wobbly table. It really just destroys my experience. It reminds me of the Larry David skit in Curb Your Enthusiasm when he gets angry about the wobbly table, lol.
FLAT®: How have you dealt with this issue at your own restaurants in the past?
Abraham: We’d been using the industry standard wedges for years before we started trying the FLAT® products.
FLAT®: How did you learn about FLAT®?
Abraham: Years and years ago I heard about them through a trade show event, I think. However, I was curious but cautious because I’d heard a lot of promises from other products that just didn’t work. I saw a video demonstration from FLAT® and was really intrigued, so I decided to give them a try.
FLAT®: What were the aspects of their line that were most interesting to you as an owner/operator?
Abraham: We have several concepts that have unfinished—or exposed—concrete floors that are not even or flat, so it was a perfect way to really put FLAT® products to the test.
We also have a very diverse set of design concepts within our properties, so we have a lot of different interior décor demands that FLAT® was able to provide good options with which to align. I was really impressed with how many different options they provide.
FLAT®: How long have you been using their products in your locations?
Abraham: Probably five years at this point.
FLAT®: What has been your experience?
Abraham: They just work. That’s about the highest praise I can give to any product. FLAT® recognized an issue that I have and promised their solution would correct it, and it does. It’s a great product.
FLAT®: Do you feel like the investment has been profitable for your brands? Why/How?
Abraham: Absolutely. It’s not been as much of an investment on our part as much as a marginal cost as we order new furniture or replace furniture as needed. It’s been an easy transition for me as a business owner.
FLAT®: What have you heard from your staff about the FLAT Tech products you’ve installed?
Abraham: It’s totally not something they even think about because the products just work. This is one of those solutions that you invest in that you don’t think about after installing. Our staff doesn’t have an issue, so they get to focus on the other parts of making each guest experience the best it can be. As an owner, that’s a solution I can get behind.
FLAT®: Why is ensuring your tables are stable and aligned important to you as an owner/operator?
Abraham: Because it is something that a guest’s “bill of rights” demands. They believe they deserve to have a stable table at a restaurant. If we don’t provide that basic right, we’ve failed our guests.
FLAT®: Will you continue to invest in FLAT Tech products as you grow your business? Why?
Abraham: Yes, absolutely. This is the solution we buy at this point, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
FLAT®: What has been your experience working with FLAT Tech from a training and customer service standpoint?
Abraham: They’ve been great to work with. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with the FLAT® team to spec a couple of our concepts, and they’ve been professional, well-informed, and very helpful.
FLAT®: What’s next for Merchants Hospitality?
Abraham: We’re going to keep growing. We have a lot of exciting things happening within our existing restaurants and bars and are looking to expand into other hot new markets in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Atlanta.
We want to again, thank Abraham for his time and for sharing his real-world experience with FLAT® products. His experience, and those of every one of our clients, is incredibly important to us.
If you’re ready to learn more about the wide variety of FLAT® self-stabilizing table bases, and FLAT® Equalizers (for stabilizing your existing tables) products, reach out to us today. Our team is looking forward to helping you find the permanent solution that best fits your needs. Let’s talk soon!