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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

setting_the_tableAt my company, we have a book club. We meet every few months and read a service related book. This past time, we chose Setting the Table by Danny Meyer. There has been a lot of buzz about this book, how it talks about the hospitality business, but it can apply to many other areas of business. See this great article in AdWeek about the book.

Meyer writes the book as a storyteller, those who are following suit and write books of a similar nature write them more as a how to book. The book gives you some insight into Meyer, and it  makes you feel as if you know him –  makes you feel like he’s approachable and relateable.

Instead of giving you a review of the book, I’d like to just throw out some of my favorite parts, or those parts that especially spoke to me.

“I cringe when a waiter asks, “How is everything?” That’s an empty question that will get you an empty response. Also, I can’t stand the use of we to mean you, as in, “how are we doing so far?” I abhor the question, “Are you still working on the lamb?” If the guest has been working on the lamb, it probably wasn’t very tender or very good in the first place. And if a guest says, “Thank you” for something, the waiters should not answer, “No problem.” Since when is it necessary to deny that delivering excellent service is a ‘problem”? A genuine “You’re welcome” is always the appropriate response.” (p.67)

He tells a story about his friend Pat, who owned Sparks. People would wait 15-90 minutes for a reserved table. He said, “People loved eating at Sparks” and how Pat “Somehow made the wait part of the expected experience.” He continues with “(In later years, that gave me the confidence not to fret too much over the long lines at Shake Shack. They’re part of the experience.)” (p.72)

“Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if it’s theirs. They can’t wait to share it with friends, and what they’re really sharing, beyond the culinary experience, is the experience of feeling important and loved. That sense  of affiliation builds trust and a sense of being accepted and appreciated, invariably leading to repeat business, a necessity for any company’s long-term survival.(p.78)

“One of the oldest sayings in business is “The customer is always right.” I think that has become a bit outdated. I want to go on the offensive to create opportunities for our customers to feel that they are being heard even when they’re not right.” (p.84)

“My goal is to earn regular, repeat business from  a large percentage of people…There are always more dishes to sample, more waiters to whom to be served, and more tables from which to view the ever changing scene. At best, a restaurant should not let guests leave without feeling as though they’ve been satisfyingly hugged. If you can do that, regardless of what product you are offering, you’ve built a solid foundation for your business. Those satisfied customers become not just your regulars, but your apostles. They’ll proceed to sell your product for you by telling the world how much they like it.” (p.87)

A couple wanted to meet Meyer. He called them up personally. He writes, “I realize that I don’t have to do this kind of thing, but there is simply no point for me – or anyone on my staff – to work hard every day for the purpose of offering guests an average experience.” (p.90)

“I had yet to learn how critically important it is to lead by teaching, setting priorities, and holding people accountable.” (p.108)

“Know Thyself: Before you go to the market, know what you are selling and to whom. It’s a very rare business that can (or should) be all things to all people. Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight focus. That will help you improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.” (p.121)

“Over the years, the most consistent compliment we’ve received and the one I am always proudest to hear, is “I love your restaurants and the food is fantastic. But what I really love is how great your people are.” (p.139)

“Nice peope love the idea of working with other nice people.” (p.142)

“People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. similarly, the excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix somthing hat isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something that we can’t train for. Either it’s there or it isn’t. So we need to train how to hire for it.” (p.142)

“To me, a 51 percenter has five core emotional skills. I’ve learned that we need to hire employees with these skills if we’re to be champions at the team sport of hospitality. They are:

1) Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness and a sense that the glass is always at least half full)

2) Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning)

3) Work Ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done)

4)Empathy (an awareness for, care of, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel)

5)Self-awareness and integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgement)” (p.143)

“A strong work ethic is an indespensible emotional skill for any employee who is going to contribute to the excellence of our business.” (p.144)

“To this day, I can’t and won’t walk past something dropped on the floor without picking it up. I wanted people to know that this job was neither beneath them nor beneath me. I also wanted to embody the same team spirit and caring for others that I expected from the staff.” (p.155)

“People expect three specific things of our brand: culinary excellence, knowledgeable service and gracious hospitality.” (p.169)

“People will say a lot of great things about your business, and a lot of nasty things as well. Just remember: you’re never as good as the best things they’ll say and you’re never as bad as the negative ones. Just keep centered, know what you stand for, strive for new goals and always be decent.” (p.186)

“I have found that when you acknowledge a mistake and genuinely express your regret at having made it, guests will almost always give you a chance to earn back their favor.” (p.222)

“The 5 A’s for Effectively Addressing Mistakes:

Awareness-Many mistakes go unaddressed because no one is even aware they have happened. If you’re not aware, you’re nowhere.

Acknowledgement-Our server had an accident, and we are going to prepare a new plate for you as quickly as possible.

Apology-I’m so sorry this happened to you. Alibis are not  one of the Five A’s. It’s not appropriate or useful to make excuses (we are short staffed).

Action-Please enjoy this for now. We’ll have your fresh order out in a few minutes. Say what you are going to do to make amends then follow through.

Additional Generosity-Unless the mistake had to do with slow timing, I would instruct my staff to send out something additional (a complimentary dessert or dessert wine) to thank the guests for having been good sports. Some more serious mistakes warrant a complimentary dish or meal.” (p.223)

“Respond graciously and do so at once. Err on the side of generosity. Always write a great last chapter. Learn from your mistake. Make new mistakes every day.” (p.225)

“Mutual respect and trust are the most powerful tools for building an energetic, motivated , winning team in any field.” (p.241)

“I’m not pleased when tables are so close together that it’s impossible to have any kind of private conversations with your companions. That’s one of ht most inhospitable things a restaurant can do to it’s guests.” (p.247)

Have you read Setting the Table? What are your favorite parts? What things spoke to you? Leave a comment below.

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