5 worst things restaurant servers can say at a table

The top 5 most ineffective and unhelpful things restaurant servers say to customers tableside:
(5) How is everything? (bland, says “I don’t care”)
(4) Manager doing table greeting without introducing themselves by name as the manager. (“hi stranger coming up to my table like we’re friends, who the heck are you??”)
(3) Everything is great! (as a response for customer asking for a menu recommendation – sounds like the server never tried most of the food!)
(2) Are you still working on that? (or worse yet, “still working?”)
(1) Not a problem! (implying that taking care of a customer is usually a “problem”)


Today was the opening of Chicago’s first Olive Garden Ever so I stopped by

On Addison just east of the Kennedy the first Olive Garden ever in the City Limits of Chicago is having a very successful opening day.  I stopped by to chat with the PR pro working the opening, Jenni Izzo of Costa Communications.  The place was packed and the building and decor would surprise anyone who has a stereotype of what Olive Garden looks like.  It was ground up construction with a nice new upscale look.

Of course, Olive Garden is not trying to be trendy but do I believe this location will be very successful, likely leading to more locations in Chicago and other urban areas.

Here’s more from Eater Chicago on the opening, and the garlicky political implications.

Why Chipotle’s hiring process is best, but most restaurants won’t use it.

Chipotle does a LOT of things right.  Beyond the obvious ways they are grabbing the market from millennials on up (high quality, natural ingredients, great marketing etc) they innovate with their music, something most restaurants blow off.  And as explained on LinkedIn Pulse, Chipotle innovates and excels in their recruiting, hiring, promotion and retention processes.  Staff is the foundation of every hospitality concept and reading how they do it can help every operator.  Here’s the problem:

It is easy to make the knee jerk conclusion that Chipotle succeeds by “treating employees well” but that’s missing the reason they succeed. It is not being nice to employees, it is excellent screening, hiring criteria, and training policies.

Most operators will read how Chipotle does it, and say “great ideas.”  And they are.  The meat of this article, “The Actual Hiring and Promoting Process,” is true genius. But most operators will balk at implementing it as it means extra time, training, money and profound changes in attitude.  Obviously it pays off, but sadly most  companies will talk the talk only, where Chipotle walks the walk and gets a good return on the investment most are unwilling to make.

The Actual Hiring And Promoting Process

Because Chipotle is looking to turn its $9-an-hour crew members into employees that garner six-figure compensation packages, they have a more rigorous hiring process for its crew members than the typical fast food place. When people apply, they are told to read the career site, and then when they come in for an interview they are asked about what they read.

Those interviews are often team interviews, where each member of the crew talks with the candidate, and they look for people who enjoy the food at Chipotle and actually did the reading they were assigned. This is smart, because now the candidate fully understands that Chipotle is looking to promote from within, and they’ll be properly motivated.

Along those lines, Chipotle cares little about experience and requires just a high school degree (after all, it is just a $9-an-hour job). Instead, they search for people who have the 13 characteristics they are looking for (which includes everything from “presentable” to “infectiously enthusiastic”), assuming that superiors will give new employees the training they need to move up.

Once hired, crew members do all the jobs at the restaurant, from washing dishes to the cashier to making the food. Again, since both the employee and the manager are incentivized if the employee is promoted, training in all these areas happens organically.

For a supervisor to get promoted to a higher-paying job, the employees who work underneath them are interviewed. If the employees speak poorly about the manager, the manager will not be promoted.

Simply how to succeed with social media (in less than 90 words).

This week is Social Media Week in Chicago – a big new convention where people can attend to learn and network.  But in business today, really every week is Social Media Week.  Everyone struggles with how to succeed and sell with Social Media.  Here’s my take:

Go on Social Media as you would go to a cocktail party. Listen to what people are discussing.  Respond in friendly, interesting and helpful ways.  It’s just like meeting new people and talking to them person to person.  Take the time to get to know them in a relaxed, natural way.  Never be rude, and don’t give your sales pitch right off the bat.  Building relationships just as you would IRL (in real life) is the key to success in Social Media!

Here’s more on Social Media Week in Chicago

How to Pitch Your Business, by Richard Branson

Richard Branson excellently explains how to Pitch your idea, product or business in Entrepreneur Magazine. It comes down to 5 simple steps:

(1) Explain how your new business will make a difference, but do it in an entertaining fashion.
(2) Show off your expertise in a personable way, highlight your experience and your team’s strengths.
(3) Ground your idea with simple, realistic messages.
(4) Do not use jargon.
(5) Most importantly, pitch quickly.

My bonus reminder: Any meaningful business idea can be expressed in less than 2 minutes!

It’s worth reading the complete Branson interview in Entrepreneur Magazine, including a couple of entertaining pitch stories from Sir Richard.

Cheers! — TTBG