Six Ways to Create Magical Connections with the Inside-Scoop Tool Box

So, you want to be a food and beverage expert extraordinaire? The secret to knock-your-socks-off service is to arm yourself with an inside-scoop toolbox of guest preferences, the local area, current events, and cool activities.

1. Be up on what’s up the neighborhood. While working at the Loews Hotel and Resort in South Beach, I asked, “What’s the coolest hangout?” Someone yelled, “Dirty Purdy.” Turns out, Dirty Purdy is a nickname for the dive bar on Purdy Avenue, known for cutting-edge restaurants like PubBelly, Barceloneta, and Locale. Turning guests on to nearby treasures provides a value-add experience.

2. Recommend cool things to do. I asked the fine dining staff of Al Mahara at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, “What should I do when I’m off?” “Sleep like we do,” a chorus of servers laughed. Then another chimed in, “Go to the Dubai Mall for a Chinese foot massage at Feet First for 100 Durhams ($27).”  Guests load up on guidebook apps, but there’s nothing like a heads-up from those close to the action.

3. Know thy guest. When you start with “Hi, how are you,” you’ll get “Fine.” Instead ask, “Where are you from?” If the reply is “San Francisco,” and even if you’ve never been to Fog City, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to check out Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.” Show genuine interest, and guests will unload a treasure trove of insights: where they live, favorite foods, what they do — priceless intelligence to create a customized experience.

4. Entertain and educate. Years ago, I worked at the Hawk ’n Dove with the late DC bartender legend “Baseball Bill,” a walking encyclopedia of baseball trivia. His bar was packed three-deep with sports-crazed patrons who would eavesdrop on the lively repartee between Bill and his fans. Check in with CNN, the BBC, and Comedy Central. Being up on sports, the arts, entertainment, and local and international events keeps you from appearing clueless. Stay away from politics, sex, and religion.

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

6. Know thy restaurant. Guests love the skinny on your chef, site history, the architect, and owners. As examples…

Concept—While working for Justice Urban Tavern in downtown LA, GM Paul Travino stressed, “Letting guests know who we are and what we stand for is important.” Their mantra: “We’re your friendly downtown LA gastro pub with food and drink sourced from California wineries, breweries, and farms.”
Music—Back in my waiter days at Paulo’s of Georgetown, concept guru Paul Cohn tasked me with listening to and purchasing unique Italian music from New York’s famed Rizzoli bookstore. Guests were charmed by little-known (in the U.S.) artists like Riccardo Cocciante and Lucia Dalla. “Who’s that singing? Where can I get a copy?” guests frequently inquired. I had the artist list handy. (I once had to stop a guest from nicking a sleeve of the prized CDs!)

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

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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