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.


Introducing Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips

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Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips

(Note: This week I am writing double duty.  Each day on this blog I will introduce you to a new site on The Hospitality Formula Network.  I will also be posting new and informative posts on the sites I am introducing.  Today’s post was inspired by out friend the only slightly cranky waitress and deals with building and maintaining rapport with your tables.  It can be read in it’s entirety at the new home of Tips For Improving Your Tips, www.tipssquared.com)

Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips is the evolution of what this site was created to be.  This is the home of all server related posts on The Hospitality Formula Network.  The focus of this blog is to provide servers with practical information they can use to create happier guests and bigger tips.  The name is actually very accurate.  This is the next level of server knowledge.  It is the home of a variety of posts that used in combination have the power to improve the service you provide exponentially.

Tips2 is more than just a new version of this site.  It is designed exclusively for servers and those who hope to lead them.  I have cut out all of the information that will not directly improve a server’s income.  No weird restaurant stories.  No posts about leadership.  It is simply the tips that servers can use to improve their tips.  Conveniently indexed and frequently updated to provide the relevant information without the fluff.

Take a look at the new site and let me know what you think.  You will find it nearly identical to this one.  I kept the formatting the same for the convenience of my existing readers.  For those of you who are new to this site, there is a wealth of information waiting for you at Tips2.  Here is a look at what you can find.

The Rules of Serving

The Rules: Rules 1-10

The Rules of Serving: Rules One and Two

The Rules of Serving: Rule Three

The Rules of Serving: Rule Four

The Rules of Serving: Rule Five

The Rules of Serving: Rule Six

The Rules of Serving: Rule Seven


Selling As A Server

The Most Important Phrase You Are Not Using

Using Words That Sell

Selling Away and Selling Up

I Make A Mean Cherry Limeade

Wine Descriptions That Sell

Three Ways to Describe Dishes

In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part One)

In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Two)

In Defense of Selling as a Server (Part Three)

How To Sell More Desserts

How To Sell The Bottle

Selling, Upselling, and Integrity

The Lost Art Of Suggestive Selling


Skills Of A Server

Five Simple Tricks

Budgeting for Servers

Three Ways to Describe Dishes

Foil To-Go: The Swan

Foil To Go: The Shark

Five More Simple Tricks

Making Tips on To-Go Orders

Learning Restaurant Spanish (Nouns)

The Mistake and The Letter

How To Serve A Bottle Of Wine

Job Hunting: The Do’s and Don’ts

Spotting The Complaint

Coupons, Discounts, and How to Deal

Love and Greed

Memorizing Orders

How To Memorize Orders

Resumes For Servers

On A Good Night

Making a Difference

What I Use

Server Safety Tips

How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part One)

How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Two)

How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part Three)


Server Issues

A Bit of Publicity and the Response

Fighting For The Server Wage

A Few More Thoughts On Emmer

Refuting Emmer’s Myths

Remembering Labor on Labor Day

The Disadvantages of Set Schedules

The Advantages of Set Schedules

10 Reasons Why Serving Is Not Like Your Job

Serving Sober

Recommended Reading 11/1

Server Safety Tips

Recommended Reading 11/8

The Economics of Tipping

A World Without Tips

Critiquing The Server


Look Ma I’m On The Radio


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.

The Feedback Thread


This is your chance to let me know what you think

This blog is at a crossroads.  Over the next month I will be fundamentally redesigning this blog and the content featured on it.  Before I make any of these changes I really wanted to consult those of you who read it to get your opinions.  You all are the reason I keep writing everyday.  When I started this blog I really hoped to one day get up to about two thousand views a month.  This month we quadrupled that number and it is only eight months in.  The growth has been astonishing to me.  It has made me incredibly grateful to all of you.  It also has introduced some new challenges.

My advice to anyone who asks me about starting a blog now is, “buy the url first.”  I have come about this advice the hard way.  My negotiations for tipsfortips.com or any variation of it are over.  My initial offer of $100 was met with a counter offer of $6000.  I have watched enough Pawn Stars to know that not even Chumlee would accept that deal. Unfortunately,  www.tipsfortips.wordpress.com does not quite roll off the tongue.

The other problem is my lack of focus.  While I have managed to stay on track and post six times a week, but the topics are pretty diverse.  This has in turn led to a pretty diverse audience.  While a handful of folks are interested in anything I post on here, most are not.  Each reader has their preference on what they would like to see posted.  Some are interested in only posts about how to make better tips.  Others come by only for the management posts.  Many of you are foodies who enjoy the food related posts most.  Others only drop in for the humor or weird restaurant stories.  Then there are the folks from Kansas City who like the posts with a local flavor.  All the other groups skip over the last batch.

I am interested in all of these topics.  Some posts intended for one group is relevant to others, but very few of the posts are relevant to all of them.  It also leads to many of my posts being less on the initial topic of “tips for improving your tips.”  This is especially true with the multi part series of some topics.  I feel that when I launch into a week long series on leadership that is relevant to managers, I risk alienating all of the other groups.  My concern is that one blog trying to serve so many diverse groups serves none of them very well.

Now that I have framed the issue, here is my thought.  My plan at this point is to break up the blog.  Rather than having one blog with so many topics, I am considering a few blogs with more specific material.  The downside of this is that there is still only one of me writing.  This means that some of these blogs would only be updated once a week.  It would also mean as a reader that you would be able to only be notified when something was posted to the particular blog you were interested in.  If you were interested in two of the blogs (ie server and humorous topics), you would not have to scroll past the topics that don’t interest you (ie management or foodie topics).  There would also be one blog that stays on top of all of the others to allow one spot for anyone who wants to follow all of the posts.

There is the situation as I see it.  In reality though, that is just me trying to understand what you are all wanting.  Before I put any of this into motion, I want to give you the opportunity to tell me what you want.  Let me know what parts are relevant to you.  Would you prefer more focused blogs even if it meant fewer updates?  Are you a facebook fan, but tired of daily updates of posts that are not relevant to your interests?  Are you someone who would rather see every post in the current format?  I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what my readers want.  It would be far easier for me to just get the information from you.  The comment thread is open to all of you.  Let me know what you think so I can make this blog better for you.

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



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

How To Make Hostile Guests Love You (Part One)


There was a better solution

One of the most difficult situations any server faces is the hostile guest.  I call them hostile, because they are angry with you long before you have even greeted them.  Some people just bring all the hostility of their day in to a restaurant and dump it on their server.  From the moment you greet them, they make it clear that they know you are only smiling because you have to and that none of your upselling mind tricks are going to work on them.  The average server can spot this right away and provides adequate service while avoiding small talk at all cost.

This approach is the response the guest is accustomed to.  It reconfirms their belief that the only reason you were being friendly in the first place was to get their tip.  They peg you as a phony and the restaurant version of détente is underway.  Most servers try to avoid this type of guest.  In reality though these guests are the ones you can make the biggest impact on.  Once you learn how to defuse these time bomb guests, you are well on your way to building a regular for life.

Read the full story at Tips For Improving Your Tips

The Lost Art Of Suggestive Selling

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This will be relevant by the end of the post.

“Subtlety is the art of saying what you think and getting out of the way before it is understood.” –Anonymous

We as a society have really lost the power of subtlety.  It could be because we have lost the patience to unravel it.  We receive far more information on a daily basis than our ancestors a hundred years ago could even process.  Most of this information is not subtle.  It is blasted at us with bells and whistles to get our attention.  The news channels do not just report the news, they also tell us what to think about it.  Movies no longer imply that a couple is about to “make whoopee”, they show us the scenes in the trailer.  In a few generations we have gone from Marilyn Monroe standing over a vent to Britney Spears getting out of a limousine.

With all of these changes, we have forgotten what it means to be “suggestive.”  This is particularly true in restaurants.  A few decades ago, corporate restaurants determined that they wanted their servers to be sales people.  The also determined that they had no interest in paying for the training necessary to actually accomplish this.  Instead, they decided to teach their servers to use adjectives and “suggestive selling.”  One of the first posts on this blog was declaring my disdain for the overuse of adjectives.  I recently realized that I never discussed my equal dislike for the corporate restaurant incarnation of “suggestive selling.”

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

The Economics of Tipping


A reminder for all of us.

I still occasionally get the guest who will say, “I can buy this wine for half this price at the store.”  Which is true, but it doesn’t come with a staff to serve it and a crew of chefs ready to cook you an incredible meal from a fully stocked kitchen.  I wonder if the same people have ever priced grapes at the grocery store.  If they want to get really serious about cutting out the mark up, that would be an even cheaper place to start.  Better yet, if they buy seeded grapes they could plant the seeds and never have to pay for a bottle of wine again.

Most of you understand the absurdity of this logic.  Those who do not understand have already stopped reading to go buy grapes.  At each step along the process of making the bottle of wine the cost of goods and service, along with a healthy profit margin, are passed along to the next stage.  From grape to cellar, farmers, vintners, bottlers, distributors, and restaurants all add to the price of the bottle in advance.  There is one exception to this rule.  The person who opens the bottle and pours it actually makes that wine less expensive.  At the most basic level, the person who serves the wine pays for part of the bottle for you.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Weird Restaurant Stories 11/6

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This week I ran across an article of particular relevance to this series.  Most of the regular readers know that each week I give an award to the restaurant hero of the week named after Chef Jonathan Justus.  I guess the bad review he received on yelp did not hurt him too much.  His restaurant was recently named the best restaurant in Kansas City by the new Zagat survey.  Congratulations to Justus Drugstore.  What makes it noteworthy in this series is that the byline on the story is the namesake of the restaurant jerk award, Charles Ferruzza.  Worlds are colliding.  With that lets turn to the real news stories of the week.

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

October Review

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I hope everyone is enjoying their Halloween weekend.  It is also the end of the month so I decided to do a quick recap of October around the blog.  This was a huge month for the blog.  It far exceeded my expectation for traffic and hopefully provided so interesting content for those who visited.  I generally don’t post on Sundays, but may begin to take the first Sunday of the month to recap the previous one.  Let me know what you think.

Over the last month I have posted 27 times in 31 days.  That makes it a pretty busy month.  I am not sure I will be able to hold the same pace through the holidays, but I will try to keep my focus on quality rather than quantity.  I have some great topics in mind and some awesome new sources of inspiration.  I am actually very excited about some of the posts coming up.

The ten most viewed posts written in October:

1) 10 Reasons Why Serving Is Not Like Your Job

2) Weird Restaurant Stories 10/9

3) Weird Restaurant Stories 10/16

4) Serving Sober

5) Weird Restaurant Stories 10/23

6) Tipping On To Go Orders

7) Restaurant Etiquette: Quiz Answers

8 ) Thank You!

9) Weird Restaurant Stories 10/2

10) Lobster Facts and Trivia

Of course very few people would have read those without some great bloggers referring them to me.  If you haven’t checked out these fine folks, you absolutely should.

Top five referrers in October:

1) The Only Slightly Cranky Waitress

2) Tony’s Kansas City (natch)

3) Do You Do That At Home?

4) So You Want To Be A Waiter

5) Frothy Girlz

As far as overall traffic numbers this month should finish at just over 6400 views with an average of 210 a day.  These are by no means stats that set the internet ablaze, but I am proud of them.  This blog passed the six-month mark during October.  I remember sitting by the computer just a few months ago hoping to break 200 views in a day for the first time.  Now I average that number which I think is pretty darn cool.  It also gives me excitement for when I can look back at these numbers and chuckle.

I try to say this often, but I do not think it can be said enough.  Thank you so much for reading this blog and being a part of its success.  It does not exist without all of you reading and sharing your feedback.  When I started it, I never imagined it would get to this point.  Your continued support inspires me to keep on typing.  I appreciate each and every one of you.  Thank you for visiting and telling others about it.  This can only get bigger with such a tremendous group of readers.

I have a few ideas for November that I think will make for good reading.  I have consulted some very wise folks to gain insight on how to appease some of the more difficult guests we all face.  A few holiday themed posts are also in store.  I am starting to get a much better feel for what you all enjoy reading and sharing.  I will continue to cater to those wishes to the best of my ability.  Tomorrow, I am going to try yet another Monday feature.  I think I have all the kinks figured out and finally have a workable idea.

This would be a great time for you to chime in too.  What do you want more of?  What makes you click the link to come visit?  What have you always wanted to know about, but haven’t felt like researching?  What difficulties do you face at restaurants?  This blog is intended to be a resource for you.  Tell me what I can do to make it a better resource.  The comment section is open for your ideas and I can also always be reached at hospitalityformula@gmail.com.

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