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Empower Your Well-selected Leaders

publication date: Apr 9, 2013
author/source: Joseph D’Alessandro

Hospitality from the Heart

One of the great aspects about being a recruiter in hospitality is that I get to experience the industries served by our agency. If I worked with surgeons or chemical engineers, I would have to rely solely on data. But because I am also a consumer, I get to experience it first-hand.

Too often we hear about bad-to-nightmarish experiences people have. In the last ten days, I have had three remarkable experiences at restaurants. As an experienced white tablecloth corporate chef and independent restaurateur, I know that it takes considerable time, energy and resources to ensure consistent delivery of superior quality and excellent service. Each great experience was the result of specially-selecting the best candidate, thorough training, and empowering that individual to make decisions, even if they are a little outside the norm. They reminded me of The New Gold Standard, a great read about the Ritz-Carlton service culture.

Whatever It Takes

In my service to The French Pastry School as Career Advisor, I am privileged to spend several days each year at their Chicago Loop campus. I take the train in from the burbs and often spend my first hour in the city at a Panera Bread. I grab a cup of coffee, make a few calls, and then buy a salad for later in the day.

On my last visit, the friendly counter service associate told me that they could not make the salad I ordered. The manager, engaged in a transaction six feet away at another POS terminal, overheard him and immediately assured me that I would be accommodated. Several minutes later I had my salad.

The manager asked the cook why she refused to make the salad and she replied that there were no pears. It turns out that there were pears, but not washed, sliced and on the line. This could have gone down 10 different ways, most of them negative. But this manager took the high road.

He did not interrupt the cook’s work. He got the pear, washed his hands, put on the gloves, dressed the pear, assembled my salad, packed my bag, and apologized for the wait…all with a smile. I told him that our profession needs emotionally intelligent “whatever it takes” leaders like him. Look at the positive example he set for his staff!

Looking Past the Fine Print

As a father of four, club sports put the whole family on the road on any given Saturday or Sunday. Last week, soccer took us 20 miles from home for a game that would get us home by 6pm. To start cooking dinner at 6pm on Sunday evening was not appealing to my wife and me. While at the game, we were sent an email that Chipotle was running a “buy one get one” promotion for all uniformed Illinois Youth Soccer players. Perfect…

On the way home, we stopped into a Chipotle with another family; together we were a party of nine with three players. We ordered and then when it came time to pay we showed our three uniformed players and the emails on our smartphones. The counter service attendant told us we needed to present a print-out of the email, although the email did not say that. We asked her to ask the manager. The manager smiled and applied the discount, even though a party behind us had print-outs of the email. She could have denied us on a technicality and pointed to the other patrons as an example.

When the accounts are reconciled, she will come up short on printed emails against her comps and have to explain that to a controller or regional manager. There is enough trust and empowerment within the culture to supersede the manager’s fear of repercussion.

Hospitality from the Heart

Last week I made a reservation for two at 8pm on Saturday night at Fiora’s, an independent fine dining restaurant in Geneva, Illinois. I had been there once before, and wanted to return with my wife to celebrate our anniversary. I advised the maître d’ that it was our anniversary and asked for a cozy table.

Upon arrival, the hostess wished us a genuine “Happy Anniversary,” asked us how many years, took our coats, and seated us at a comfortable table. The server promptly arrived and congratulated us on our anniversary. He asked us about our kids and we shared a little. He was professional, courteous, and knew exactly how much time to spend at the table. The meal was excellent, and well-timed.

One of my favorite aspects of the experience at Fiora’s is what did not happen. They did not provide a complimentary dessert or drink. They didn’t have to. I was happy to pay for every morsel and every sip. They provided outstanding quality and service with genuine hospitality, and that was more than enough!

Neither subject in these examples is a client of Strategic Hospitality Search (yet), and I do not have to know any more about their selection process or training protocol besides what I experienced first-hand to conclude that each of these companies:

  1. Commits to selecting technically competent and emotionally intelligent candidates.
  2. Invests in orientation, training, re-training, and ongoing training.
  3. Empowers their people to deliver genuine hospitality, even if it means taking a risk.

These three objectives are powerful drivers for success in hospitality, whether in restaurants, lodging, foodservice, clubs or catering. For those of you who have these programs in place, “Kudos!” Keep it up!

If you are challenged in any of these areas, contact me. Strategic Hospitality Search can most certainly deliver for you on the first objective, and help you find the right talent or outsource to help you achieve success on the second and third.


Empower Your Well-selected Leaders

This entry was posted in Catering Management, Culinary Management, Executive Management, Hotel Management, Restaurant Management.

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