Product Knowledge Pays

From peeking under a stairwell to look up terms like chicken vindaloo at 14 Market in Charleston, S.C., to sniffing a handful of fresh basil at a Paolo’s food show in Georgetown, I find food fascinating. And using an experiential approach to make product knowledge come alive is a win/win for staff and guests.

Consider this story of chef Todd Haramic at Citron at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes.

  1. Write descriptions. Todd and I started with a use record, a list of ingredients of the Tanglewood Chicken Crunch appetizer. (Tanglewood Farms is a small farm in Winston-Salem, N.C. that supplied the chicken, which is grain fed and free of antibiotics and steroids.)
  • 4 2-oz fresh free-range chicken tenderloins
  • Seasoned flour
  • Malt batter
  • Corn flakes
  • Hand-cut Idaho fries
  • Homemade barbecue sauce and ketchup
  1. Create dialogue. A list of ingredients takes you only part of the way. So Todd and I integrated the ingredients, cooking methods and selling lines into my Hook, Line, and Sinker sales dialogue format.

Hook: A great appetizer to share is our Tanglewood Crunch.

Line: Four fresh, farm-raised chicken tenderloins dredged in flour, dipped in a malt batter, and rolled in corn flakes; flash-fried; and served with hand cut Idaho fries and house made barbecue sauce and ketchup.

Sinker: They’re fabulous!

  1. Conduct a food show. Next, servers gathered in the kitchen with the raw in ingredients laid out on a large stainless steel counter. I co-facilitated what I call the Raw, Prepped, Final Food Show. “What do we have here?” I asked. “Well Bob, this is the whole fresh chicken from Tanglewood Farms in Winston Salem free of antibiotics and steroids,” said Todd. “Notice its reddish brown color,” Todd noted while holding up the bird for all to see. “To add flavor and create a crunchy texture, I’ll dredge, dip, and roll these tenderloins in flour, malt batter, and corn flakes.”

He then flash-fried the strips. “OK everyone. I’m now mixing up our North Carolina-style barbeque sauce with yellow mustard, vinegar, sugar, and a touch of chili pepper,” Todd explained while passing around a bowl with tasting spoons. Next he demonstrated how to cut fries from a whole Idaho potato. Finally, he assembled the finished plate. The air was alive with the sights, sounds and aromas of a dish in the making.

  1. Practice your lines. Finally, I orchestrated the Circle Game. While pointing at each ingredient, I prompted a different waiter to repeat a line from the Hook, Line, and Sinker and fill in the blanks: “A great appetizer to share is our … chef Todd takes a whole … and cuts … Then he … ” The waiters laughed as they struggled, yet they noticed how easy it was to describe the dish. We ended with a tasting of Todd’s masterpiece along with shots of a micro-brew. Servers happy all.

Using this power pack of the Hook, Line, and Sinker, the Raw, Prepped Final Food Show, and the Circle Game creates a fun and prosperous learning environment. It engages the senses, tickles the imagination, and tests knowledge in a safe and playful way. It’s guaranteed to build server confidence, boost sales, and create an extraordinary guest experience.

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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