Create Magical Connections with the Inside-Scoop Tool Box

Sure you want to be a menu and beverage expert extraordinaire. But being armed with an inside-scoop toolbox of guest preferences, the local area, current events and cool things to do is the secret to knock-your-socks-off service.

1. Be up on the local area. While working at the Loews Hotel and Resort in South Beach, I asked, “What’s the coolest hangout?” Someone blurted out, “Dirty Purdy.” Turns out, Dirty Purdy is a nickname for the dive bar on Purdy Avenue, an area known for cutting-edge restaurants like PubBelly, Barcelonetta and Locale, a gourmet pizza joint. Turning guests on to nearby treasures is a perfect way to provide a value-add experience.

2. Recommend cool things to do. I asked the staff of the fine dining Al Mahara at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, “What do you recommend I do on my day off?” “Sleep like we do,” a chorus of servers laughed. Then another waiter chimed in, “I always go to the Dubai Mall and hit the bottom floor to get an amazing Chinese foot massage at Feet First for only 100 Durhams ($27).”  Sure, guests load up on guidebook apps like Lonely Planet. But, there’s nothing like a real time heads-up from those closest to the action.

3.  Know thy guest. Ask guests the usual “Hi, how are you?” and you get the usual “We’re fine.” But ask something more pointed like “Where are you from?” If the reply is, “I’m from San Francisco,” don’t gloss over the response with, “OK, what can I get you to drink?” Even if you’ve never been to Fog City, you could say, “I’ve always wanted to check out Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.” When you ask questions that show a genuine interest, guests unload a treasure trove of insights: where they live, favorite foods, occupation, and what they like to do — priceless intelligence to create a “just right” customized experience.

4. Stay well informed. Years ago I worked with the DC bartender legend “Baseball Bill” at the Hawk and Dove. He was a walking encyclopedia baseball trivia from Mickey Mantle to Reggie Jackson. His bar was packed three deep with sports crazed patrons eavesdropping on the lively repartee between Bill and his devoted fans. Check in daily with CNN, the BBC and Comedy Central. Being up on sports, the arts, entertainment and local events as well the international arena keeps guest from stereotyping you as clueless. Make certain to stay away from politics, sex and religion.

5. Be well-versed in allergies and diet trends. Today, the gluten-free audience is 44 million strong. Don’t be caught flat-footed when it comes to knowing the ingredients in every item on the menu. Vegans, Paleo Caveman dieters, and guests with allergies will appreciate your thoughtful awareness and guidance.  

6. Know thy restaurant. What do you know about your restaurant? Guests love the skinny on the chef, site history, architect, and owners. I recently delivered the opening training for Justice Urban Tavern in downtown LA. “Letting guests know who we are and what we stand for is important,” stressed GM Paul Travino. Their mantra: “We’re your friendly downtown LA gastro pub with food and drink sourced from California wineries, breweries, dairies, and farms.”            

In the end, keep your inside-scoop toolbox loaded with answers to frequently asked questions and artful tactics to uncover your guests’ wants and needs that say, “I’m here for you.” You’ll be glad you did.

Contact Bob for DVD for the new DVD The 8 Keys of Dining Sales Success 703-726-9020.

About the Author

Bob Brown, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, pioneered Marriott’s Service Excellence Program. He has worked with clients such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton and works internationally with the prestigious Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network and is author of the bestselling The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Contact Bob for keynotes, workshops, breakouts, and executive retreats at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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