You must have passion in order to succeed. If success is to be yours, it will be yours while you are following your passion. You won’t succeed doing something you despise, you won’t even succeed doing something that you like doing, you will succeed when you do what you love, what you’re passionate about. Michael Jordan
Welcome back to Soupfly. So, what in the world does Michael Jordan have to do with Excellence in Service? One word-PASSION. What does it take to be an Exceptional Server? What does it mean to be the Best? At the Top…The Cream of the Crop? (First of all-I don’t know what “Crop” people are talking about when they say that.. Corn, beans? I don’t know. Ok. Disregard that.) Michael Jordan was the Best. I know some of you will dispute this and say “No, Kobe Bryant is. Or Lebron James is.” I know some say Lebron is king but that must be with a small “k” because everybody knows that Elvis is the King.
Well, according to Wikipedia: Many of Jordan’s contemporaries label Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time. An ESPN survey of journalists, athletes and other sports figures ranked Jordan the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century, above icons such as Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. Jordan placed second to Babe Ruth in the Associated Press‘s list of 20th century athletes. In addition, the Associated Press voted him as the basketball player of the 20th century. Jordan has also appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated a record 50 times. In the September 1996 issue of Sport, which was the publication’s 50th anniversary issue, Jordan was named the greatest athlete of the past 50 years.
I think most people will agree that Michael Jordan was indeed one of best athletes of all time. How long has it been since he’s played? Nearly 20 years and yet to this day-he is the Standard by which other basketball players are judged. You may think Kobe is better than Jordan was or that Lebron is better than Jordan was. But the fact remains-Jordan is the one that everyone is compared to. No one else. The question is always, “Is he (fill in the blank) as good as Jordan was?”
Although there are many factors, I believe one key ingredient that anyone, who wants to be at the top of their game, must have is Passion. Or as Jordan called it “A love for the game.” Jordan not only had it. He exuded it. He lived it. He breathed it. While he certainly had natural ability when it came to sports and specifically basketball-that alone was not enough to ensure him success. In fact, when he tried out for the varsity basketball team in high school as a Sophomore-he did not make the team. So what did he do? Did he quit? No. He played on the Junior Varsity team and became the star of the squad. And during the summer he trained rigorously. He became a student of the game. He earned a spot on the Varsity squad the next year and the rest is.. well, you know…
“Love what you do and the do what you love.” “Is the life you live the life you love?” “Do what you love and the money will follow.” These are pretty well known phrases and philosophies. But does this mentality only apply to a sport, the arts or some other such pursuit? Surely one can have passion for a sport, or for music but what about for Service?
As I’ve been interviewing various individuals-from Servers and Bartenders, to Chefs, Restaurateurs and others for my book-GETTING TO WOW! First Class Restaurant Service-there is one recurring theme that always comes out-Passion. It’s stated in many different ways by these individuals but every single one of them says something like-“As I was at culinary school, I really enjoyed the creativity I was able to express through food but when I began working in the Front of the House-the dining room, I really fell in love with the Service side of the business.” Or: “In order to be successful in this industry you really have to have a Passion for people and for caring about their dining experience.” And I completely agree with them.
The actual original definition of “passion” is “to suffer”. So, being passionate about something means “to be willing to suffer for what you love”. (from the book, Aspire, by Kevin Hall)
If you are in this business-the Food and Hospitality World and you don’t love it-you ultimately will not be successful at it. This is a really tough business in so many ways. It is super high stress. There are often long hours required. Your life schedule becomes topsy turvy. You don’t have control of your nights and your weekends.
But on the flip side-if you do enjoy it and if you can find your passion in providing exceptional service and in creating memorable dining experiences for your guests-then the rewards you receive will be manifold. Yes, you can make fantastic money working as a Server or Bartender but I’m not talking just about the money. I’m talking about the satisfaction, the gratification, the feeling of fulfillment when you bring happiness to someone. When a group of guests walk into your restaurant and maybe they have an idea of what to expect or maybe they don’t but after 1 1/2 or 2 hours or more of being your dining guests, they walk out not just fully satiated but completely content beaming with happiness and gratitude. It’s really an amazing feeling to experience that.
It’s really pretty easy to tell if a person-a Server, is doing this just for the money or if they truly have a Passion for this business. It’s evident to you, if you’re their co-worker and their only focus is seeing how much money they can squeeze out of/make off each guest. If they have a guest who is just ordering the bare minimum-maybe a glass of wine rather than a bottle, an entree but no appetizer-no salad, does that Server’s attitude and focus and level of attention begin to slide because they know they are not going to make that big of a tip off that table? The guest certainly becomes aware of it as well. Is there a pleasant happy greeting by the Server to the table of 6 but all of sudden the original upbeat positive attitude turns sour when all but 2 of the 6 guests say, “I’ll just have water.”? What happened to that cheerful guy who said he was here to “take care of us”?
We know that sometimes there will be guests that don’t tip well, don’t order much of a meal and really maybe don’t know what it means to dine out or to have a dining experience. And there will be some people who just can not be satisfied no matter what is done for them. But those guests are few and far between. Most people that come to your dining establishment, where ever that may be-want to be your guests and want to experience the great food and ambience and service that you and your establishment have to offer.
He told me that he considers himself more than a Server and in fact he views his job as to ‘Host your dinner party’ at Giada. He says he is a “Dining Experience Coordinator” I love that phrase that he coined. But more important than the phrase, is the attitude behind what is said. That makes me want to take my wife out to dinner at Giada all the more. Greg, obviously, is someone who has a Passion for this business. And a genuine care and concern for his guests. His enthusiasm is uncontainable when he talks about food and wine-whether he’s serving his guests or he is recounting his own experience of enjoying being a guest himself.
When one has Passion or “a Love for the Game”, to quote Jordan, it will lead to becoming a student of the game. If you are in this Food and Hospitality Industry, are you a student of your game, your craft, your industry? Do you study and practice your craft? Or do you just show up for your shift each day hoping that the day or the night goes well for you? Have you been in this business for so long that you feel that there really is nothing left for you to learn or to practice?
Anyone who wants to excel and be their best will be willing to do whatever it takes to reach that level. Yes, your management should provide ongoing training and education for you but if they don’t, you should take it upon yourself to study and learn more. The more knowledgeable you become the more helpful you can be for your guests. I’m not talking about knocking your guests over the head touting your superior food and wine knowledge . But being able to share insights and information with them at the appropriate time is often welcomed.
The more you learn about your industry, the food and wine that you serve and the skills of great service and hospitality-the better you will feel about your job. And that, in turn will rub off, resonate or vibrate with your guests in a positive manner, causing them to be happy and have a more enjoyable dining experience. They, in turn, will compensate you with a more generous tip (most of the time) (*PLEASE NOTE-THIS IS NOT A GUARANTEE-THERE ACTUALLY WILL BE SOME TIMES WHEN YOU PROVIDE OUTSTANDING SERVICE AND YOUR GUESTS, FOR WHATEVER REASON, WILL NOT PERCEIVE IT AS SUCH OR WILL BUT JUST WON’T TIP YOU ACCORDINGLY. Please do not hold me responsible) They will also, often, commend you to your management and recommend you to their friends and family to ask for you when they come in. Which in due time they could become your regulars. Not a bad cycle to begin, right?
Am I saying that everyone who works in this business must have a burning passion for the Food and Hospitality industry from day one? No, not at all. And yes it is true-every manager, owner, chef and restaurateur that I have interviewed has told me- “I can teach and educate my staff on points of service, on the food, the wine, etc but one thing I can’t teach them is how to truly genuinely care for their guests.”
Passion cannot be taught nor bought. But I do believe it can be caught. If you surround yourself with people that have that burning desire, that passion, then either you’ll catch what they’re sending out or you will not want to be around them anymore. So take heart, if you don’t have a passion for this business and you are just biding your time until you’re finished with college or until you get what you consider ” a real job” I would recommend that you connect with someone who obviously does have the Passion and ask them what is it about this business that they love so much. And maybe you too will catch the flame.
Michael Jordan said he had “a love for the game“. To me that means exactly that-the game. I don’t know if he loved practicing hundreds of free-throws everyday, or doing wind sprints or other conditioning exercises. He didn’t say he loved the “Practice”. But one has to go through the hours and days of the tough stuff, the grueling practices to get to “The Game”/Game Day. That’s where “being willing to suffer for what you love” comes into play.
Likewise, in this business, I’m not sure if my friend Greg (that’s not him in the picture), ‘loves” polishing silverware, or wine glasses or folding hundreds of napkins or doing any number of the myriad of “practice activities’/sidework that is required and must be done every day in every restaurant. But they are necessary for the restaurant’s success.
I used to do some acting when I lived in LA a few years back. I have a friend, Carey Dunn who writes, directs and produces his own plays. He has a Passion for theater. He’d do it if he made money or not.
When I was doing plays back then with Carey, I don’t recall any of my co-actors saying how much they “love” memorizing lines over and over again. They have a Passion for acting-a love of the game. But in order to be ready for the stage, one has to spend hours practicing their craft, honing their skill, sharpening their reflexes. You have to put in the work, they say.
But finally, after all the memorizing and getting into character, after all the free-throws and strength conditioning, after all the sidework and silverware polishing, now comes Game Day. Now comes the Performance. Up goes the curtain and Dinner Service begins. The guests are your fans, your audience. And your role tonight is that of a Dining Experience Coordinator, The Creator of an Exceptional Dining Experience for your guests. The tips they give and the Smiles on their faces as they leave are their applause to you for giving a good show, a great performance. BRAVO! BRAVO!
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