News & Views from 465 California Street

I Believe in Credo

Clint Reilly

A few months ago, I devoted a column to the impending opening of my restaurant, Credo, at 360 Pine Street in the heart of downtown San Francisco. I recounted the doom-and-gloomers and naysayers who scoffed at me. They predicted falling sky.

Today, Credo is open and serving more than 1,000 diners per week.

For our March launch party, we squeezed more than 400 friends into Credo’s 75-seat ground floor dining room. The original skeptic, my wife Janet, opened the night on a humorous note by recounting her initial horrified reaction to my idea.

The famous social justice priest Monsignor Eugene Boyle, now a venerable 88 years old, then blessed the premises.

Our guests enjoyed a short parade of Credo personalities: Mario Maggi, our Milanese executive chef; Tim Felkner, our suave young general manager; Frank Holland, our editor and creative director; and finally my close friend, Lorenzo Petroni.

Lorenzo owns North Beach Restaurant, a renowned destination which is thronged nightly. Who better to help me cut the ribbon?

That was the easy part.

Credo’s grand opening was a lot like some of my experiences as a political consultant.

The campaign launch always turned out to be irrelevant to the final outcome of the election. I usually forgot the details of the announcement by the time the election rolled around; the rough and tumble of the actual campaign quickly replaced the ceremonial perfection of opening day.

No sooner did we open our Pine Street doors than diners starting walking through them. At first there were only a few. But Credo sits in the middle of San Francisco’s Financial District. More than a million workers migrate there from all over the Bay Area each weekday. Around the corner on California Street, classic FiDi restaurants like Tadich Grill, Perbacco and its new sister Barbacco are thriving.

The hungry workers soon found Credo. Our lunch became a blockbuster almost overnight. The young service staff, led by Felkner, was overwhelmed initially but adjusted quickly. Chef Mario’s kitchen ran like clockwork. Our dinner, where Chef Mario really shines, is steadily growing too.

Still, there are hiccups.

On our best lunch day last month, I was dining with associates when Credo’s power blew out and it took more than 15 minutes to restore. This happened on three different days before PG&E discovered that rain water was seeping into their electrical source on the street, causing a short.

But you never want to make customers unhappy, even if it’s PG&E’s fault.

Today, eating out is the top leisure time activity in the country. An entire food culture has blossomed around celebrity chefs, food blogs and review websites.

At websites like Yelp! and Opentable, anyone can be a critic and make his or her opinions known to the world.

Hundreds of people have already reviewed Credo on both sites, where we’re happy to boast a four-star rating.

You’ll read comments extolling Chef Maggi’s world-famous sedanini and fettuccine Bolognese. But you’ll also read loud complaints.

Restaurants are now exposed to constant critiques from customers who provide immediate feedback on the good, bad and ugly. We already have more than 250 reviews on Open Table alone! Most are gratifying from my perspective as owner but many are a wakeup call to meet a higher standard.

The restaurant critic also plays a role. I encourage you to check out the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Credo on Sunday, May 1; sometimes it’s fun to read a review that truly pummels. In fact, critic Michael Bauer practically tells you not to come.

Although he praises Credo’s design and service, he severely pans our food, giving us only one star. Chef Mario is angry. He takes it personally. I’m more philosophical. I’ve sued the Chronicle’s owner, Hearst Corporation, three times and exacted painful and embarrassing settlements.

Myself, I don’t believe in turning the other cheek. So why should they? William Randolph Hearst didn’t.

For Credo, the long campaign has begun. Count me a risk taker.

Comments (5)

  • Keep it up….you’ve got a winner!

    Posted by: Clay Jackson | May 11th, 2010 at 8:59 am

  • Clint
    That was quite a hit piece by Bauer. We read restaurant reviews regularly and that was an unusually long review for any restaurant, good or bad. Proof is in the pudding. Continued success. The Dells Family

    Posted by: steve dells | May 11th, 2010 at 9:00 am

  • I have enjoyed 2 meals (dinner and lunch) at Credo and would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family. We will wish you continued success.

    Posted by: kevin v. ryan | May 11th, 2010 at 9:30 am

  • Today’s story about Credo, was great. I ate there in March with a family friend. The food, decor and service were great. The place sure got busy while we were there and I enjoyed the young crowd and reading all the quotes. We, in the food business, will always get criticism about something, most of our yelps are very good but there are a few that aren’t and we survive with those who really appreciate what we and/or our chefs and staff do for them. So I wish you and Credo all the best and many years of success. Will visit again soon.

    Posted by: Mike M. | May 11th, 2010 at 9:49 am

  • Your history with Hearst explains Michael Bauer’s review. We plan to lunch or dine at Credo on our next visit from the Natural State, cradle of presidents.

    Posted by: Jerry Carroll | May 11th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

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