Au Revoir OTV

October 23, 2012

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that I will no longer be marketing my Orlando-based performance firm On The VERG – so fondly known around the home office (our house) as OTV.  Undoubtedly a difficult time to be a small business owner, but it’s the desire for a more sustainable scenario with a great company that motivates me now.  Still though I am grateful for almost three years of supporting clients in the areas of compliance, consistency, service and human resources.

I am excited to announce that I have accepted an offer to lead the human resources function at Miller’s Ale House – a rapidly growing concept based in Jupiter, Florida.  (We’ll initially remain in Orlando.)  This is a fantastic opportunity to help grow the business and keep people employed while putting my stamp on the restaurant and human resource industries.  Besides, how could I not be excited to work for a company whose slogan is “A reel great place to catch a good time”?  I’ll update applicable contact information as it becomes available.  
Lastly, I want to thank my wonderful clients and family members who allowed and encouraged me to be a solopreneur – no one more so than my wife Karrie.
Stop in an Ale House near you and let me know if you do indeed “catch a good time.”

Server Etiquette – General Restaurant Operational Excellence

February 21, 2012
Servers should not spend too much time at tables but be reachable with eye contact.

Discretionary spending is down, which means fewer restaurant meals for most of the U.S. population. It also means that meals out are considered more special, so more is expected of them.

Alas, too many restaurants trip up on many small matters of etiquette, says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Mannersmith, an etiquette consulting firm in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Here are Smith’s top tips for providing an excellent restaurant experience:

  • Make a good impression from the minute a guest walks into your restaurant. If you are with other customers, simply make eye contact and smile; otherwise greet them verbally.
  • Be realistic about wait times. If you underestimate, diners will be more than annoyed. It’s better to tell them too long because then you might exceed their expectations.
  • When guests are seated, an employee should come to the table almost immediately with water and a menu. Make sure you look at the menu from the patron’s point of view—if you are a dark restaurant, make sure your paper isn’t dark and your font not too tiny, for example.
  • Sticky menus are incredibly off-putting. There’s no reason for a menu to be sticky or stained.
  • If you can print out the specials, do so. It saves servers from having to remember them, makes it easy for guests to follow them, and also provides prices.
  • When a patron asks a question about a dish, if a server doesn’t know the answer, he or she shouldn’t guess, since sometimes these concern medical issues. Guests are happy to wait while servers check with the kitchen.
  • Never lie to the customer.
  • If you don’t have something, offer something in return. Never just say no, say “Sorry, we don’t have that, but we do happen to have this.”
  • Servers should know enough about the menu, even if they haven’t eaten everything on it. For example, “I haven’t tried the filet mignon, but our server John loves it.” Or “I haven’t eat the shepherd’s pie but it’s one of our best-selling dishes.”
  • If you have a table of women, or a table of older people don’t call them “you guys”. This is permissible, however, with a group of younger people.
  • “Never ask: Are you still working on that?” It should not be work to eat at a restaurant. If you have to say something, ask “Are you still enjoying that?” but this question really shouldn’t be asked at all. Servers should be able to tell by the placement of diners’ utensils whether they’re finished or not.
  • Don’t ever put your thumb in customers’ food when carrying plates or on the rims of glasses when serving drinks.
  • The sign of superb wait staff is knowing to whom to present the check. It’s usually the first person to speak and the person who helps orchestrate things at the table.
  • Servers shouldn’t reach over diners when filling water glasses.
  • Smart wait staff can ask women if they’d like the dressing on the side when they order a salad. It looks polished and is thoughtful.
  • Servers can ask diners with children if the kids’ meals should come first, if they’re ready. It’s good to anticipate customers’ needs.
  • Servers shouldn’t be at the tables too much but should be within eye contact distance so diners can reach them.
  • Always thank diners before they leave.

GM City Club – Washington DC

June 7, 2011
City Club of Washington with its two convenient locations, Columbia Square and Franklin Square, situated in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s prominent legal, business and theater district is seeking a General Manager.

Job Summary:

At City Club of Washington we strive to promote Warm Welcomes, Magic Moments and Fond Farewells, as our every day business. The idea that the Member is “King” represents our high level of service that we continually strive to achieve each and every day. As the General Manager, customer service, and/or Member satisfaction, is the number one priority. Once that is achieved, membership Sales, private event sales, club usage, member satisfaction, member retention and Employee Partner satisfaction are likely to be obtained.

The General Manager’s purpose is to direct all phases of Club operations to provide quality service and product to Club Members. Fiscal responsibility encompasses managing the financial viability of the Club, and ensuring the Club meets all financial obligations. Reviewing all expenses with the management team is a vital part of this. The General Manager is a hands-on position and a vital part of the Club’s operation. This position is often times called “the face of the club.” Members need to see the GM often, and Employee Partners need to be assured that they are available for their needs.

Job Requirements :
Preferred previous experience:5 years in up-scale/ fine dining
Club management or related fieldPreferred education:

Bachelor’s Degree – In Hospitality Mgt, Business Admin, and Marketing, Economics preferred and/or CMAA certification, Food Mgt Professional certification.

City Club was conceived in 1987 as a most distinguished and refined private Club that would fulfill the needs of and be easily accessible to members of Washington’s political, legal and business communities. City Club of Washington offers Members and their guests a warm and sophisticated environment to dine in comfortable and subtle elegance and enjoy entertaining with others of like mind. Significant emphasis is placed upon those elements, which constitute the essence of a fine private business and social club. City Club of Washington was founded on a charter of nondiscrimination and membership by invitation.

Contact Nate Shannon at with your interest.

Ultimate Customer Insult – Waste Their Time

April 26, 2011

I didn’t realize this still went on.  The stereotypical used-car salesman tactics…”let me go see what I can do…what’s it going to take to get you in that vehicle…sleep with financial manager and we’ll buy you down a point…”

Okay, the last one never happened but the others did just last week when visiting two Orlando-area Kia dealerships.

We couldn’t understand the accent of the cook turned salesman at dealership #1.  This made it difficult to follow along with the features of the four different model Sorrentos.   We also weren’t comfortable  spending 30K with a guy wearing a basketball jersey, jeans and tennis shoes.  Adding to the frustration was that vehicles weren’t grouped together by model – at either dealership.

However, we’d gladly take the former cook instead of the less-than-passionate salesman (just transitioned out of the retail industry) at the dealership #2.  After test-driving a vehicle and agreeing to start the financing dance, the salesman approaches with the first offer.  “…I’ll go ahead and tell you right now…these numbers are astronomical…I can’t believe they’re making me bring these out here…I am on your side…Let’s pretend we’re talking here a minute…”  At one point he even turned over a piece a paper and asked us to acknowledge that we would buy the car if we could get the terms were looking for.

I failed to mention we were shopping with our five-week old.  My response, while pointing in the direction of the stroller was something like “…you might want to bring me a serious scenario as she’s (the baby) not going to give us a lot of time…”  We left after getting the stereotypical, more senior salesman, looking frustrated and being made to feel like they were doing us a favor.

It’s been a while since I felt such a lack of respect for my time.

I read a tweet the other day that suggested ‘customers are paying for experiences as much as they are goods and services.’  So true.  Our experiences at these two dealerships is one we’d like to forget.  Based on recent popularity, one would think the folks at Kia know what the public wants.  But in Central Florida, they’re not connecting with buyers.

I don’t know much about the auto-industry but for several days I have tried to figure out where the training goes wrong.  In this particular dealer’s defense, both salesman admitted they had just started.  Maybe it’s not salesman on-boarding – perhaps it’s turnover.  But at least companies are hiring again, right?

HR Certification

March 1, 2011

Shortly after beginning my professional human resource career in 2001, I was interested in gaining credibility by pursuing PHR (professional in human resources) certification.  I registered, received materials, but was then asked to support my company’s new operation at Churchill Downs, during the weekend in May when I was to test.  At the time, the operation at Churchill Downs was one of the most significant new pieces of business.  (We were only hosting the Kentucky Derby in our first weekend.)

I contacted SHRM not to ask for a refund, but simply to move my testing date back to the next opportunity.  I was denied, lost money, and a great deal of respect for the whole process.

I remembered reading in the SHRM collateral which spoke of supporting those we serve (not a quote), and that’s exactly what I was trying to do in supporting my company that May.

From the SHRM website:

Now is the time to boost your career, strengthen your department and help your organization grow.  The Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) or Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®) certification is more than an accreditation, it will help:

  • Distinguish you among your peers.
  • Highlight your commitment to your career as an HR professional.
  • Ensure that your knowledge of HR topics and legislation is current and help protect your organization from risk.
  • Open doors to unlimited career opportunities and professional growth.
  • Provide you with the opportunity to join companies that are requiring certification for their employees.
  • Demonstrate you have mastered the HR body of knowledge.

I have served in progressively responsible human resource roles and many would say that I was (and continue to be) successful at each of those six bullets from their website.

Over the last decade, I’ve remained neutral when debating the issue of experience vs. certification.  During that time I worked alongside many great human resource professionals who did not possess certification.

For now, I’ll continue to do so without the three or four-letter distinction after my name.   As I once again attempt to gain credibility – this time as a consultant, am I limiting myself for doing so?

Service Industry Operational Excellence Chat

February 22, 2011

We’re hosting our first Service Industry Operational Excellence chat (#sioechat) on Thursday, February 24, 2011 from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. EST.

The goal is to chat openly, on a weekly basis about challenges facing the service industry, how to combat them, share best practices, and ask engaging questions.  While the rest of the world is a critic, we’ll inspire each other to perform better in our respective roles within the industry.  At a minimum, we’ll make some great connections.

General Guidelines:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Stay on topic
  3. Be respectful

We look forward to a great chat series beginning this Thursday.


Looking Back

January 26, 2011

A year ago this Friday marks the anniversary of my last day with a company I  spent the previous 12 years with.  A company that provided growth opportunities, strategic business experience, and an opportunity to provide for my family.  Though I had an opportunity to stay on, which in hindsight I may have opted for had I known of the difficulty in launching a company, instead I chose to end that chapter of my life.

After a three-day cruise, alone, I only haphazardly began searching for “conventional” work.  My heart simply wasn’t in it.  I had lost the passion.  Then a dear friend and business owner herself  suggested I start my own company and by early March I founded On The VERG (OTV), an Orlando-based performance firm specializing in compliance programs, mystery shop programs and human resources.

Many times during the year I wanted to give up – even doing so in August only to be encouraged to stick it out by that same friend.  Furthermore, she suggested that I spend 10K to exhibit at an industry trade show.  Crazy right?

Finally, in December, clients began to show sincere interest in OTV.  We now partner with three clients with diverse needs ranging from extensive internal reviews to spot human resources support.  A long road ahead of us for sure but with these significant anniversaries approaching, I wanted to take a moment to look back.

I remain grateful for the experience gained with my former employer but there can be no looking back.  I am more determined than ever to make OTV the most sought after resource in the industry.  No matter the challenge, we’re going to remain focused on putting clients On The VERG of “what’s next.”

Oh, and that friend.  I realized this past year that she is the love of my life and we’re engaged to be married.  We also learned of our little girl on the way.  For these two things I am definitely looking forward to.

Your Year-End Responsibility

December 9, 2010

Even the merriest of managers can get down when thinking about year-end responsibilities.  Last minute budget adjustments, turning company goals into department goals, department goals into personal goals, writing/delivering performance reviews, etc.  It can be overwhelming.

While what motivates us may vary, we all need feedback regarding our performance.  Many companies continue to use some form of a performance review.  (Unless you’re documenting on-going feedback throughout the year, you should be doing some form of a performance review – maybe more often than once a year.)

A few lessons I’ve learned over the years regarding performance reviews:  The content should not be a surprise.  They should be well written.  They should contain appropriate detail.  Take them serious.

My point however is that most performance review templates include a section for recommendations for improvement, or goals.  In my experience, managers rarely write performance reviews with the company’s goals in mind.  To align your team with the company’s purpose, there must be a connection between the company’s goals and what the employee must do to improve  his performance.

Help steer your company in the right direction and connecting the dots between company goals and message you’re delivering to your employees regarding their performance.

Feeling Better about Bad Service

December 3, 2010

Karrie and I visited College Park’s (Orlando) Infusion Tea following the Holiday on the [Edgewater] Drive event.  We walked in at 8:45 – 15 minutes before they closed.  Whether it was the cooler temperatures or the holiday spirit, we were in the mood for hot chocolate.

Noticing the business hours on the door, we mumbled to each other as we walked in ‘we hope we’re not too late’ and placed our orders as if we were begging for forgiveness.  The young woman behind the counter didn’t make us feel any better appearing put out through the whole process, never once offering a smile.   No warm greeting, and no thank you for coming in.

We were there during business hours.

Being in the industry I immediately switched from apologetic to frustrated in our first experience at this trendy coffee/tea place with an otherwise cool vibe.  Why should we feel bad for coming in during business hours?  Realizing this was the end of her shift, shouldn’t employees provide the same level service throughout the course of the day?

During our apologetic ordering, Karrie mentioned we were new to the neighborhood.  What a fantastic opportunity to “wow” new guests.  Never happened.

For the record, I do not recommend arriving at a restaurant for a meal 15 minutes before they close.  But for hot chocolate, we should all expect more than what we got at Infusion Tea.  Luckily for Infusion Tea we met Monarcha (spelled correctly) outside who gave us the appropriate welcome to the neighborhood.

Free Dessert

November 22, 2010

A quick lunch at Miller’s Ale House Orlando (Airport) this past weekend got me to thinking about service recovery.

I didn’t realize servers still offered a free dessert when another portion of the meal does not meet expectations.  But that’s what happened this weekend.  My girlfriend’s meal was room temp at best.  Without hesitation the server offered to fix it.  A few minutes later a manager stopped by and offered a free dessert.  (We were impressed with the timely reporting of the problem by the server to the manager.)

I worked for a restaurateur for a dozen years who suggested we were not to “bargain” with guests when we screwed up some portion of their meal.  Instead guests were not to be charged.  Furthermore, we were to offer them the opportunity to come back to see that we could do things right.  “Fix it + 1” he called it.

What are you experiencing when restaurateurs are faced with service recovery?  If you work in the service industry, do you feel empowered to take necessary steps to making it right?