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You should be over here right now

Recently I have noticed a small spike in subscribers to this blog.  That is great.  I appreciate you choosing to subscribe.  I hope to reward you with outstanding content that will make you glad you did.  The problem is that this is not where I am doing that anymore.  In December, I transformed this humble blog into The Hospitality Formula Network.  The network consists of five specific blogs that each focus on a different facet of the hospitality industry.  There is a blog for restaurant servers, restaurant managers, restaurant guests, and even one filled with restaurant humor.  You can learn more about The Hospitality Formula Network here or just visit the home page for previews of the content available on each of the sites.

So I am not going to ask you to take the time to click a link without giving you some reason to do so.  Here are three reasons why I think The Hospitality Formula Network is worth visiting or revisiting if you haven’t in a while.

Weekly Skills Focus: For the last 6 weeks, I have been laying out what I believe are the fundamental keys to improving sales, tips, and creating return guests.  We are currently on week 6 of an 8 week series.  I have dug back through the archives and am spotlighting on key post each week.  I am adding further explanation on the server blog, but doing much more on the manager blog.  Each lesson at The Manager’s Office is also accompanied with key teaching point to make this your pre-shift meeting topic of the week.  In addition, I am including a “lesson plan” as such to explain how to teach the topic throughout the week to increase understanding and server buy-in.  I fully believe that restaurants that follow this plan for all eight weeks will see a dramatic improvement in revenues, morale, and guest happiness.

In-Depth Knowledge:  When I started this blog, I felt it necessary to cover the big picture issues first.  This lead to a lot of posts that introduced philosophies that create the paradigm by which I analyze the restaurant industry.  This is where topics like the 10 Rules of Serving and my Leadership vs Management series for managers came from.  Now I am able to simply reference and link back to those posts when discussing more situational topics.  This blog provided a great deal of background information, the current posts deal more with the real world applications of it.

The Writing is Better: If I am going to be honest with you, I cringe when reading some of the early posts on this blog.  I never claimed to be a great writer.  I have found though that writing like most other skills is something you get better with the more you practice.  300+ posts and over 250,000 words later, I think my writing has improved a bit.  I have a stronger voice and feel more confident writing in it.  I address a number of topics now that I was scared to when I started this blog.  The transition was most apparent to me when shortly after starting the network I began a final round of rewrites and edits on my book.    The blogs and the book both benefited greatly from the efforts that began trying to peck together posts for this blog.

Speaking of which, did I mention that I released a book?  My first book Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips was released just two months ago.  I truly believe it is the finest book available on the topic of the skills servers need to make exceptional tips.  I do not say that because I wrote it, I say that because I have spent some time looking into other books available on the topic.  I did not write the book to make a quick buck.  I did not slam some information together and print it up on a Xerox machine.  I did not release an eBook and hope to sell a few copies.  I spent two and a half years writing, testing, editing, rewriting, copy editing, designing and publishing.  I am not looking to sell a few copies while I am working a desk job.  This is not just another product I can sell my consulting clients.

This book is my manifesto on serving.  After 16 years in the business and countless misguided server training programs, I distilled the information that has allowed me to be a successful professional server into a simple format that servers can benefit from immediately.  I founded Hospitality Formula Publishing to help provide this information directly to the hospitality industry.  I have two more books in developement and am on the lookout for other strong voices within the industry that I can help be heard.  This is not a way to market myself.  This is my attempt to fundamentally change the way that servers are trained.

I take seriously the fact that I am not just some consultant who wrote a book.  In less than five hours I will be tying on an apron to start another week serving at The Majestic Restaurant in Kansas City.  I have to say it is a bit odd at times living the double life of author and server.  Over the last two months I have received a bit of publicity.  I have been featured on/in KSHB, KCTV, KCUR, The Pitch, The Kansas City Star, The Employee Lounge, and Tony’s Kansas City.  This leads to the inevitable, “Hey aren’t you that guy who wrote a book?”  If you ever really want to increase the pressure of serving, try to be the server who wrote a book on serving.  There are no more off nights.  You are expected to bring the show to every table every night.  I refuse to be a hypocrite about the things I write about.  I know they work because I do them. 

So thank you for visiting this site.  I hope you enjoyed the post, now get over to The Hospitality Formula Network and let’s change this industry together.

Thank You Mister Robinson

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Photo by Chris Cummins Kansascity.com

(Note: I wrote this piece last week upon hearing this untimely news.)

I never worked for Paul Robinson.  To the best of my knowledge I never even waited on him.  When I read today that he passed away on Monday it probably should not have affected me the way it did.  Honestly, I am not sure that I have any right to be writing this post.  Mr Robinson had a greater impact on thousands of lives than he had on mine.  Still I can’t help but feel sadness at the loss of a man who was a restaurant legend in the truest sense of the word.

I grew up with the legend of Gilbert/Robinson.  Two restaurateurs that changed the face of the industry and ran nearly every great dining spot in town.  At one point “GR” ran nearly all of the restaurants in Kansas City’s main dining district, The Country Club Plaza, as well as concessions for the airport and both stadiums.  It boggles my mind to think of a single company controlling such a large number of the city’s outlets.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

The Plaza Lighting Ceremony

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As Thanksgiving approached this year, my girlfriend and I had several discussions about our traditions.  Her traditions included a big meal with turkey and all the fixings.  We made all those foods over the last few days.  We toted them up to my family’s house yesterday and had a great meal.  It wrapped up just in time to head home for my Thanksgiving tradition.

For a majority of the last twenty years my Thanksgiving nights have been spent watching Christmas lights with tens of thousands of friends and neighbors.  Thanksgiving night in Kansas City is when people gather to watch the Country Club Plaza turn into a beautiful, glowing, masterpiece.  With the flip of one switch, the twenty or so square blocks of The Plaza become illuminated.  The countries oldest automobile inspired shopping district becomes even more beautiful.  This tradition has been happening for at least twice as long as I have been alive and is one of the great things about Kansas City.

I will see the lights turn on thirty or so more times before they leave them off in January.  I live and work in the neighborhood.  In a few days it will just be the reason traffic drives me crazy.  I am certain that any number of censored rants will eventually include “those damn lights.”  For one night though it is magical.  Last night I took a camera with me to capture what makes it so magical.  Neither the camera nor my photo skills were strong enough to capture the sense of the moment.  I still thought I would share a little of my tradition with all of you.

(Click on any picture to see it in full size)

For weeks this is what the lights have looked like

Before the lights it is still very pretty

And then they flip the switch

It is very difficult to photograph fireworks

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Come back tomorrow for another installment of weird restaurant stories.  For some daytime pictures of The Plaza, check out my review of the 2010 Plaza Art Fair.  For some great aerial photographs of the lighting ceremony, check out the KCTV5 slideshow.

 

Chef Nicolette: An Introduction

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Chef Nicolette at her CIA graduation

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a very talented and passionate pantry cook named Nicolette.  She left not long after I started to attend culinary school.  I advised against it.  She has since graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and become an accomplished pastry chef.  I asked her to answer a few questions about school and what she gained from the experience as what I hope is a prelude to future posts.

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

Thank You!

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If they are looking for trophy ideas...

I wasn’t planning on writing today, but a huge thank you is in order to all of you.  Yesterday my post titled “Ten Reasons Serving Is Not Like Your Job” crushed my previous best day.  Huge props to Tony over at Tony’s Kansas City and Yellowcat at Do You Do That At Home for linking to it.  I would also like to thank all of those people who shared it on facebook.  I don’t want to sound too self-serving, but that is a post we all benefit from people reading.

That is not the only thanks to be dispensed today.  I was greeted with congratulations from my General Manager this morning.  I had to stop and ask why they were in order.  That is when I found out that I had won The Pitch’s 2010 Reader’s Choice for Best Server in KC.  I cannot even express how honored I am to win this award.  This might be the coolest thing I have ever won.  Yes, they did misspell my name, but I blame that on Charles Feruzza (intentional payback).  They could have looked it up in the article they wrote about me a few months ago, but it does nothing to diminish my excitement.

I really am honored and want to thank all of you who voted.  This really does make my day.  I also wanted to congratulate Tony for winning best blogger, Blanc Burgers and Bottles for best burger, and The Flea Market for best trivia.  All were reader’s choice winners.  As I forewarned in my initial post on the topic, the reader’s picks were pretty much dismissed and they chose whom they wanted to write about for their winners.  I think the reader’s choices are still a better measure and I count these guys as the real winners.

Now it is time to head back to work and start building for the repeat.

Plaza Art Fair

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For those of you from Kansas City, I wanted to provide a recap of the most popular part of the Plaza Art Fair.  Sure they call it an art fair, but by far the most common activity is eating the food offered by Plaza restaurants while walking the streets sipping a cocktail.  When I made passing mention of it in a previous post, I searched unsuccessfully for a site detailing the food offerings. So on Sunday afternoon I went back to the art fair to photograph the booths.  Hopefully this provides you with fond memories during the 51 weeks worth of waiting for next year’s event.

For those of you not from KC, this is interesting on a different level.  The Country Club Plaza is Kansas City’s premier dining and shopping district.  During the art fair over 100,000 visitors will come to The Plaza to see art and sample some of the local restaurant’s fare.  This not only represents a great marketing opportunity, but also a huge opportunity to generate revenue.  A successful art fair booth can generate $20,000-$50,000 in revenue on top of a large spike in business inside the restaurant.  In order to seize this opportunity you must build, staff, and stock a freestanding restaurant complete with kitchen.  The visual appeal of your booth, the quality of your offerings, and the value you provide will determine your success.  It is a high risk venture with the potential to do more volume in the free standing booth than most restaurants in America will do in a week.

Some restaurant chose not to participate this year.  Notable no shows included The Cheesecake Factory and Buca Di Beppo.  I tried diligently to document all those who did participate.  I also did some research and as best I can tell will be the first to reveal to the internet the winner of the Plaza Art Fair best booth award.  Here are the booths in alphabetical order.  Click any picture to see a larger version.  A breakdown of their food offerings can be found here.

810 Zone

Blanc Burgers and Bottles

Bo Lings

Brio

Classic Cup

Figlios

Fred P Ott's

Houston's

In gre di ent

Jack Stack

Kona Grill

M&S Grill

O Dowd's

PF Changs

Plaza III

reVerse

Ruth's Chris

Starker's

The Capital Grill

The Granfalloon

The Melting Pot

Tomfooleries

Topsy's

And The winner of the 2010 Plaza Art Fair best booth award goes to……

McCormick and Schmick

I hope everyone who attended had a great time.  I hope everyone who didn’t get to make it found this post a nice way to enjoy it vicariously.  I hope everyone who worked it for three days straight recovers soon.  This is a great event for the area and one that definitely draws customers down to the Plaza.  Only 51 more weeks until the 2011 Plaza Art Fair.  I hope my body has recovered by then.

The Greatest Customer Complaint Response Ever

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Meet Chef Jonathan Justus, your new restaurant hero

I had lunch today with my friends Emma and Senor Esparza.  They ate at Justus Drugstore last night.  Justus is on the outermost outskirts of what could be considered Kansas City.  In the few years that it has been open it has developed a reputation of being well worth the drive.  I personally have never dined there.  A little to pricey for my blood, but after reading what I am about to share you will see why I have never felt a restaurant owner was more deserving of my hard earned tips.

They were telling me about how incredible the food and wine was and how the chef joined them for a glass.  Then Emma full of glee interjected with a story.  She said she had read an incredibly negative review.  As we waited in line at Oklahoma Joe’s for America’s best meal served inside a gas station, she conveyed the details of this complaint.  After coming home and reading it, I can say she did not do it justice (HA! Get it a complaint about Justus Drugstore).  Enough of my puns, here is the review from Yelp!:

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

Best of KC 2010

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Every year the local alternative weekly rolls out their ballot for the “Best of Kansas City.”  They solicit a bunch of votes and then decide on their own who wins relegating the actual winner to a single line at the bottom.  Sounds like fun huh?  This year I decided to use this blog to publish my winners.  If you are not from KC, this might be kinda dull.  May I recommend one of the tabs above to find something interesting?  If you are from KC, you probably get a little intimidated by these polls.  For this reason I am publishing my complete ballot to help you fill in any holes you might have.  This is just my opinion, but it might inspire a few places to check out.

3) Best Media Personality- Tony from Tony’s KC

4) Best Politician- Bill Skaggs

5) Best Do-Gooder – Alonzo Washington

6) Best Blogger- Tony’s KC

7) Best Facebook Group- Tips on Improving your Tips

8) Best Place for a First Date- Blue Koi

9) Best Place for a Breakup- Buzzard’s Beach

10) Best Place to Meet Mr or Ms Right- Crossroads @ Grinders

11) Best Place to Meet Mr or Ms Right Now- Tomfooleries (or so I hear)

12) Best Place for a Night Out- Country Club Plaza

13) Best Day Trip- Columbia, MO

14) Best Grocery Store- McGonigles

15) Best College Athlete- Blain Gabbert

16) Best Professional Athlete- Tamba Hali (best tipper on the Chiefs)

17) Best Coach- Gary Pinkel

18) Best Sports Blogger- Nick Wright

19) Best Sexy Musician- Bob Walkenhorst (not based on personal opinion, but us grey haired guys gotta stick together)

20) Best Cover Band- T-Marv and Hammerdown (at my sister’s request)

21) Best Outdoor Festival- Plaza Art Fair

22) Best Public Art- Plaza Art Fair

23) Best Art Exhibit- Andy Warhol at Union Station

24) Best Artist- Matthew Crim

25) Best Actor- Brett Buffum

26) Best Actress- Jessalyn Kincaid

27) Best Theater Production- 1776

28) Best Homegrown Product- Boulevard Beer

29) Best New Restaurant- Westport Café (I defy you to name more than 5 that opened in the last year)

30) Best Brunch- M&S Grill (Walk in, sit down, and eat before you can make it to the front page of the waitlist anywhere else in town)

31) Best Burger- Blanc (for the last 15 year the Flea Market has gotten my vote, but gotta give it to Blanc)

32) Best Pizza- Northern Lights

33) Best Vegetarian Food- Eden’s Alley

34) Best Late Night Food- El Rancho

35) Best Place to Eat at the Bar- Westport Flea Market

36) Best Server- David Hayden (better to lack humility than play favorites)

37) Best Bartender- Penny Shultz (this is a no win for me too, but Penny trained me.)

38) Best New Bar- Grunhauer (also best place to discuss you fixed gear bike)

39) Best Smoking Patio- Kelly’s

40) Best Happy Hour- Blanc

41) Best Sports Bar- Chappels

42) Best Karaoke Bar- Westport Flea Market

43) Best Trivia Night- Westport Flea Market

44) Best Neighborhood Bar North- 54th Street on Englewood

45) Best Neighborhood Bar South- Coach’s

46) Best Neighborhood Bar East- 54th Street Independence

47) Best Neighborhood Bar West- Danny’s

48) What Did We Miss:

Category: Pompous Food Critic

Winner: Charles Ferruzza

Those are my picks.  You can complete your ballot by visiting the Best of KC Poll at the Pitch Website.  If any of my winners would like to receive a personally signed certificate signifying they won, you must be really desperate for things to hand on the wall.  I will still make you one though.  Visit again in October when I will share the link to who they decided should win.

Tomorrow I will get back to server related stuff.  I promise.  My 100th post week has been fun, but I want to get back to writing about serving and how to make more money at it.  Thank you for indulging me. This week.  Nest week we get down to business again.

A Food Critic Intervention

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Above My Computer

There have been several instances while writing posts for this blog where I have felt the need to place blame for the things that drive me crazy about the restaurant business.  I have always managed to stop short of that because I do not want this to be a blog that complains about the problems we are all aware of.  My mission is a little different.  I want to help servers make more money by exceeding their guests’ expectations. Whenever I find myself kvetching too much I only have too look at the Woody Guthrie quote that I keep hanging above my computer to get me back on track.

I consider myself fortunate to have worked with some great “old school” waiters who instilled in me a respect for the industry and the way things used to be.  I have heard tales of the days when people dressed for dinner, left the kids at home, and did not ask for ranch on their Caesar salads.  Since I did not cause the mass corporate casual restaurant to become the norm, I do not complain about it.  I try to adapt to a world where anyone with a yahoo username can be a food critic and hundreds of cooking shows allows everyone to consider themselves a chef de cuisine.  I do so because this is an industry that I love and respect.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Regional Barbeque Styles

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Christmas is just around the corner

As a rule I attempt to be unbiased in my writings on this blog.  When I express a controversial opinion I try to balance it out with a contrasting opinion.  The advice I give on serving comes solely from my experience, testing, and observation.  Opinions just convolute the message and make it less applicable for the reader.  Today however I do not think I can be objective.  I was made fortunate through the grace of whatever power you believe controls this universe to have been born in Kansas City, the greatest Barbeque city on the planet.

Wherever you are from is no doubt a wonderful place too.  I am sure you do many things as well or better than we do here in KC.  Barbeque simply isn’t one of them.  There are some regions that would dispute that though.  In an effort to be fair, I will address their styles too.  Each of the main barbeques regions has a different style that lead to a very unique taste.  Knowing what style of barbeque you prefer will help you easily pick the restaurants serving that style.

Before we breakdown the regional styles of barbeque, a glossary of BBQ terms is probably in order:

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

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