Updates, Redirects, and “Aren’t You That Guy Who…”

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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.

Announcing Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips

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David Hayden

It is with a great deal of pride and excitement that I can finally announce the release of my first book: Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips.  I have been teasing this big announcement for months and am glad to finally be making it, even though for regular readers it may be akin to Mitt Romney announcing that he is running for President.  We all know that he hasn’t been in Iowa and New Hampshire for the last two years because he loves the weather.  Today, I am making it official and wanted to take a moment to discuss the book and why I truly think it is something that should be on your bookshelf.

When I was a young server in the nineties I used to pay very close attention to some of my more experienced co-workers.  I noticed that when I was in the weeds other servers were handling far more tables, helping me out, and looking completely stress free.  I wanted to see what they were doing that I wasn’t.  They had a secret and I wanted to know what it was.  I would ask them, but no one could really put their finger on anything they were doing differently than what all the other servers did.  Over the years, I watched my best co-workers like a hawk.  Learning how they phrased things, how they dealt with the dinner rush, and why it was that their guests seemed to enjoy them so much.

As it became more apparent to me that serving was something that I wanted to be able to support myself with, I began to seek out books to help me.  I read books about sales, but found that few of the techniques were easily applied to serving.  I read books about customer service, but they seemed to all be written for managers.  I read the seven habits, found out how to win friends and influence people, discovered the thinking without the growing rich part.  All of these books were great, but very little of it could be directly applied to making me a better server.

Over my years of serving I have been through the training programs of a dozen restaurants.  Each time I finished training, I made a sincere effort to try to follow their system.  It led to disappointing tips straight out of training until I started integrating the techniques that I knew had worked for me in the past.  Each of these training systems had the same two flaws.  The first was that they were written by someone who had not been in front of a table in years.  They were filled with rambling scripts that came across as an infomercial rather than a service oriented interaction.  The second problem was that they were written to be easily understood by the least intelligent person the restaurant could hire.  They often bordered on patronizing as they explained only the very basics.

Fast forward to two and a half years ago when I found myself relaxing on my couch after training a new server on a lunch shift.  The server delivered their “pitch” as the training manual had taught them to.  Not one thing about that pitch would have made me want to purchase what they were selling.  After following me for the shift, this server seemed excited to learn to do it my way.  It reminded me of how I must have looked trying to watch the great servers at the restaurant I started at.  They had asked me how I made it look so easy and I didn’t have a better response than the servers I had asked years before.  I decided to come up with an answer.

Over the next six months I began outlining and writing a book.  I would go into work each day and try to test very specific techniques.  I would tweak and fine tune the tricks I used to find out exactly what worked and why.  Then I would write about them when I returned home.  Once the book was finished it went through numerous rounds of edits and rewrites.  With each time I reviewed it, I put the techniques back into the forefront of my mind and started trying to polish them.  The finished product that I am announcing today looks very little like the first draft.  The first draft was good, but the end result is a book that I think will make a significant impact on server’s income.

I know this book will help any server that implements the lessons in it to improve their service and increase their tips.  That is not hyperbole, exaggeration, or bragging.  I know this is the case because it has improved my tips.  I knew everything in the book because I wrote the book.  Even on the seventh round of edits and rewrites I was finding things that I was slipping on and by reintroducing them found my tips improving.  It is not all revolutionary and new information.  Many of you will know most of the information in it.  Seeing it explained in a different manner and choosing to apply it will place it in the forefront of you mind and help you increase your income.  Those that have been serving long enough to know most of the information will respect more than anyone how one good technique or trick can improve your tips.  I would not put my name on this book if I was not convinced that you could improve your income by more than the price of the book in the first week.

It is not my intention for this post to turn into a sales pitch.  Instead, I would like to sincerely invite you to check out the website for the book at www.tips2book.com.  There are a number of sample chapters available for you to read and reviews from other bloggers who received advance copies of the book.  Take your time to consider whether you feel the book will improve your income.  I have every confidence it will and hope you will consider buying a copy today.

Look Ma I’m On The Radio

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The Dave Scott Show

I mentioned this briefly on Saturday’s post, but it is official today.  I will be on The Dave Scott Show this Friday discussing serving and the industry in general.  It should be an interesting listen.  I’ve never been a fan of my own voice (although I have been accused of loving to hear myself talk), but if you all want to suffer through I promise to try to make it interesting.  He hosts a restaurant themed show every Friday.  In recent weeks he has talked to consultants and managers.  I think it will be a refreshing change to have someone who spends time with the guests giving a different opinion.  Have I sold you yet?  Here are the three best reasons I think you should listen in.

1) Someone is putting a server on the radio.  There are so many talented server bloggers out there making their voice heard.  I think this is a great chance to reach a larger audience.  There are several people who I frankly think should be further ahead in line for something like this than me.  I hope this goes well and gives many of them the opportunity to be heard as well.  I will be dropping some names to him of people on that list.  People I would much rather listen to on the radio than myself.  I’ve never seen anyone who sits down at a computer to write about serving as a rival.  This is a mighty fine community we have and what helps one of us helps all of us as I see it.

2) I will be making a big announcement about the future of this site.  January 1st this site will no longer exist as you know it.  For the last week or so I have been up to my eyeballs in uploading, installing, truncating, and redirecting.  The Holidays are probably not the best time to do this.  On Friday’s show I will be announcing a new home for the blog and a new format I hope you all will really like.  Of course you will hear about it on this blog next week, but who wants to be the last to know?  Only one group will get to know sooner and those are the people who are signed up for my twitter feed.  They will get first crack at it on Thursday.

3) It’s the day before my birthday.  Yeah, I will play that card.  I am cutting my birthday celebration a bit short (who gives up a Saturday night shift in December?) to partake in the interview.  Consider it my online b-day party and you are all invited.  No present necessary.  Sorry, no cake.

So if you are near a computer on Friday between 6-7 central time, I hope you will direct it to LVRocks.com .  Dave seems like a great guy and hosts a very interesting show.  His past restaurant shows can be found on his page.  All are very good listens.  I would be curious to hear what you thought of past guests.  I will try to not embarrass all of you.  Back to regularly scheduled posts tomorrow.

You Can Get Anything You Want At Alice’s Restaurant (Including Trophies)

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Yes, I do have it on vinyl. Hipster Rating +1

Happy Thanksgiving.  Long time readers might recall me mentioning long ago a particular affection for Woody Guthrie.  What you don’t know, unless you have known me for twenty years, is that it began with his son Arlo.  Today, I wanted to tell you the story.  Then I want to follow up the story with the best version of Alice’s Restaurant complete with the Richard Nixon story ending.  Before I get there though I would ask that for proper understanding of this story you all remember the simple meandering guitar while reading the rest of this post.

You see it all started about 20 Thanksgiving ago, that is 20 years ago Thanksgiving, when myself, my buddy Glen, and our debate coach Ron had an idea.  This was not just any idea.  They had an idea to make a skinny debater into an actor.  I real live bonafide cry on demand actor.  The only problem is that I am not an actor.  Their solution was that I wasn’t going to act.

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

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.

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.

100th Post Extravaganza

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Unfortunately cakecentral.com did not make this cake to celebrate this occasion.

I try not to self-indulgently pat myself on the back too often, but damn it I have written 100 of these posts.  It is time for a little self-indulgent tripe.  I wanted to take this opportunity to make some announcements regarding this blog, thank some great people who have helped me along the way, and reflect on some of the posts of the past.  When I started this blog I had no idea where it would lead.  Along the way I have learned a lot about writing a blog and want to share a little bit of that knowledge with other bloggers out there as well.

First off let’s knock out the announcements:

Welcome to the new layout of the blog.  It took a great number of hours of deliberation to decide on this format.  I will miss the familiar blue look, but am excited about some of my new features.  The most exciting part is that at the top of the home page there are now tabs.  This works somewhat like the index did, but categorizes the information more succinctly by categories the reader will enjoy.  I have determined my readership is divided in four ways: servers, managers, foodies, and people who think I am occasionally chuckle worthy.  Now each has a category at the top to find just what they like.

I also have decided to leap into 2006 and start a twitter account.  You can follow my twitter feed at http://twitter.com/tips4tips.  I have to admit I know very little about twitter protocol and such.  I will just send a tweet when the blog is updated to give you a chance to catch up.  This may fail miserably, but it is worth a try.  Also if anyone wants to send me some twitter etiquette tips, feel free.  So go to the twitter page and become a follower if you want.

With this format redesign and some other new features they have introduced, I have decided to stay with wordpress as well.  They run great blogging software and make it very easy to get started.  The lack of ftp access and share options bothered me at first, but since they added them I think I will stick around.  The biggest announcement of all is related to that.  I was hoping to be able to make it today, but alas it is still a couple weeks off.  Stay tuned though, because it will mark a whole new chapter in this blog.

Now that we have that out of the way lets get to the topic at hand.  When I started this blog I made no secret of it.  I know most server bloggers keep their identity top secret.  I knew the story of CJ from Frothy Girlz who worked blocks away.  My decision was based on the idea that I have no problems answering for anything I write on here.  My name is David Hayden and I write this blog.  I keep my employer a secret at their request, but frankly I don’t think I have posted anything they would find too offensive.  I wanted to write a different type of server blog.  I have to say that at first I was a little under whelmed with the response from my coworkers.  Perhaps they thought it was going to be preachy pronouncements from me on how tables should be served.  Over time though I think those that read it have learned to appreciate it for what it is.

There was one point where the response was a bit overwhelming.  When I wrote about why not to date coworkers, plenty of them chimed in.  While I definitely do not want to reignite that debate ever again, I think it serves as a good learning tool to those starting a blog.  You will have to answer to your readers.  You can do so anonymously, but if you decide to be public about your writing you will have to do so in person too.

At the same time I could never have gotten this blog to the point it is without the help of my friends and coworkers.  So I am going to take a break from self indulgence to give some much deserved thank you s.

Thank you to:

Jessica and Michelle for referring the most people to the page at it’s inception.

Lisa, Heather, and Bobbie for sharing the heck out of my stories of facebook.

Becky, Yellowcat, Brenda, Jessi, and House for kicking in with comments and letting me know that someone is reading.

Scott for always keeping the debate lively whether he is on my side in it or not.

Paige for being my designated drinker.

Stefne and Eric for giving me reminders that I should have proofread again.

Pren for giving me countless ideas on how to structure a blog and for a very thoughtful introduction.

Candice and Julie for making me write my way through it.

The Chefs for constantly giving me ideas to write about.

Drew, Maggie, and Roman for kicking through with countless post topics.

Jenn Jones for being Jenn Jones.

The Burtons and The Hollmans for giving me the chance to get away from time to time.

Blitzel for not pointing out that I am still the second best waiter at my address.

Bramble for restaurant knowledge you cannot find online.  This guy is a restaurant genius.

Marcy for being my biggest cheerleader.

Jeff for enduring hundreds of hours of listening to me ramble about the blog and always having insight.

My Mom for being the person who has read every post.

My Dad for believing that this could be as big as I think it could.

And Ali for listening to me ramble about this thing more than anyone.  For being patient with me when I run late to finish a post and not getting mad when I check my stats 40 times a day.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who read this blog.  I cannot begin to express how much I appreciate each and every one of you.  This is the first step in a much larger dream of mine.  Each one of you has helped inspire me to keep at it and helped me to believe I can really achieve this.  From the bottom of my heart I truly do appreciate each and every one of you.

Tomorrow I will wrap up this extravaganza with recap of my first 100 posts.  A list of my 10 most popular posts.  The search engine terms that brought me the most traffic.  A special shout out to all the bloggers and blogs that referred me traffic.  There will probably also be thank yous for all the people I forgot to include on this list.  I know it doesn’t sound that exciting, but I think those of you who are regular readers will find in very interesting.  A special contest in the meantime:  Can you guess the most viewed post of all time on this blog?  Leave your answer in the comments.  The winner will receive a special mention in tomorrows post.

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

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Regular readers of this blog may have realized already that I hate getting stumped by my guests.  I have spent thousands of hours researching food to prevent this from happening.  Last night I was asked a question so simple I should have known the answer.  They asked me what makes vinegar “balsamic.”  One theory was that it was aged in balsa wood while another was that it was made of a particular grape.  After the shift, I researched until I could find an answer.  This post is dedicated to the guests at table 68.

Before I get to the answer though, I wanted to address olive oil as well.  It’s like salt and pepper.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Simon and Garfunkel.  You can have them separately, but they are so much better together.  So today I wanted to explore some facts about both.

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

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