Dinner-Made- the Way We Like it

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When it comes to Service & Hospitality, I have always been of the opinion that it doesn’t take a lot to really provide a WOW! experience for your guests.  Unfortunately, it is more uncommon than common, so when we do experience a place that does it right we want to shine a light on that place, it’s staff and say “Thank you and Congratulations” to them.  This was the case with our recent visit to Made LV at Tivoli Village in Summerlin, Nevada.

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Michelle and I had frequented the bar and enjoyed happy hour there a number times previously.  However we had not actually ever had the full experience of sitting at  a table, being served and dining at Made LV.  Made LV, (which is owned by the same husband and wife team of Chef Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau, who also,own Honey Salt and recently opened Andiron Steak and Sea), brands itself as “an American tavern”. Frankly a tavern environment is fine for a few drinks and bar food but not necessarily the type of place I prefer to eat at dinner at.  But on this particular occasion, I was really in the mood for one of my favorite vegetarian/vegan  sandwiches-the eggplant pastrami.  Michelle and I were wanting to have a nice, but not extravagant dinner-so with said sandwich in mind I suggested Made LV to her.

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We walked into Made LV and we were greeted by the hostess by the all too common phrase that so many hostesses in restaurants say, “Two for dinner?”.  (For my thoughts on how and why this is in no way an exceptional welcome/greeting please see a previous post here on Soupfly entitled-A Greeting, A Seating and Setting the Tone):

https://soupfly.wordpress.com/?s=a+greeting%2C+a+seating

While I was not thrilled with this less than welcoming greeting-I am happy to report that Julie, the hostess,  made up for it in spades (an appropriate Vegas metaphor) by what she did next.  As we entered Made, we quickly noticed that there was live music playing in the bar area. Normally that would be a welcome treat, however, we both were in the mood for a more relaxing and quiet ambience.  The group that was playing definitely sounded great but they were loud.  Very loud.  We just couldn’t see ourselves enjoying our dinner with such loud music playing.  After realizing that our hope for a quiet relaxing dinner was not going to be fulfilled here and as much as I had my heart set on the eggplant pastrami we decided to go elsewhere.  We told Julie that we just wanted a quieter environment and that we’d return another time.  We exited Made and stood outside, in front of the restaurant considering our other options. All of a sudden, here comes Julie with a look of determination on her face.  She politely says to us, “I know that the music may be a bit too loud inside, but what about a table on the patio where it will be much quieter and we’ll turn the heat lamps on for you?”  After considering her idea for a few moments, Michelle and I decided-“Yes, yes indeed, We’ll take you up on it.” As she escorted us to the patio, she said, “If you really were determined to eat here, I didn’t want you to have to go somewhere else.”

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So, Julie, with her quick thinking and her desire to make the guest-(actually since we weren’t even in the restaurant we weren’t technically guests)- happy, she won us back.  Once we were seated, she ensured us that it would be pleasant and quieter and told us that Ryan would be out soon to light the heat lamp.  That, though it may seem like a very small gesture-got me.  And as I said at the beginning here, it doesn’t take a lot to provide excellent Service & Hospitality. Julie was aware that I had my heart set on the eggplant pastrami  and though the loud music was a challenge-she was creative and quick thinking and found a way to accommodate us.

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The ambience on the patio was lovely, with a nice view of Tivoli village and the music now considerably quieter.  The tone had now been set for a relaxing, enjoyable dinner.  Our server, Rene, was pleasant, friendly and conscientious. He happily accommodated our requests, as both Michelle and I made slight modifications to our order off the menu. Although I said that I was intent on the eggplant pastrami-I of course ordered it with no cheese and no dressing-thereby making the vegetarian on the menu sandwich a vegan one. Michelle has recently chosen to be on a gluten free/almost dairy free diet and none of our requests presented any challenge to Rene.  He not only was knew what food contains gluten and how to modify an order to make it gluten free.  He even told us that all such requests are cooked in pans that are designated for gluten free cooking. However, he did mention that there could be cross contamination of gluten in the french fries.  I was impressed that he offered that information rather than waiting for us to ask.  Many Service and Hospitality workers that we’ve met are completely clueless about gluten and other types of dietary restrictions.  Our food came out exactly as we ordered and it was great!

Rene gave us just the right amount of attention-a balance between TMA (too much attention) & TLA (too little attention).  He checked on us at the appropriate times, made sure that our food was to our liking and just overall very friendly.

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And by the way, Ryan did come out to light the heat lamp for us although it took a few attempts.  First there was no tank in it, so he came back with a new one.  Then Rene said, “It’s not working because the tube is broke.”  But rather than telling us, “I’m sorry we can’t light it.” OR that we need to move to another table, Ryan was determined to get it fixed and working for us. He replaced the tank and the tube and after 3 attempts-he got it lit. Also, our table was unstable and rather than offering some lame response like -“All our tables are like that”, he fixed it. He apologized that they didn’t have the proper wedges for stabilizing tables, so he used the linen napkin-which in my opinion does not look great but it does get the job done.   I am surprised at how few restaurants actually have in stock the wedges that are made specifically for that purpose and therefore the service staff is left having to use coasters, napkins and sweetener packets.  Regardless, we were very happy with Ryan’s “get it done” attitude.

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And on top of all that, Brad the manager came out to greet us. He was very friendly and engaging.  We learned that he is actually the brother of Jim, the GM at Elements. (See previous post)He asked us how we were enjoying everything and we told him how Julie had won us back when we were set on leaving.

So, thanks to Julie’s quick thinking and the combined teamwork of Ryan and Rene, Michelle and I had a lovely, relaxing dinner on the patio with a stable table, a glowing heat lamp, quiet music emanating from the bar, good food, good service and a beautiful night time view of Tivoli Village.  It was not extravagant. It was not over the top high end service-but I will tell you that I count it as one of our better dining experiences.

Thank you team at Made LV-you guys all “made” our night!  See you soon.

http://made-lv.com/

Thank you all for reading!  We love our readers!  Please Share on Social Media.

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For your signed copy of my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service, go to my website:

http://www.gettingtowowbook.com/

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God Bless You & Cheers!

Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV 

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Essential Elements of Service and Hospitality Success

WELCOME BACK TO SOUPFLY!

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Happy April 1st Everyone!

It is hard to believe that the first quarter has already whizzed by.  The signs of spring are all around us-at least here in Las Vegas.  I hope all of you are staying focused on the goals and plans you set for 2015 and still endeavoring to make 2015 your best year yet.  Stay focused, inspired and disciplined!

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Today I want to share with you about a restaurant that is doing things right, Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar, here in Las Vegas.  Elements, now under new ownership and management, brands itself as a ‘fine casual dining’ establishment.  Michelle and I have been here a couple times in the past but on one of our previous visits-some months ago-a staff member blew out the candle right in front of us at 8:45 pm, saying, “You’re still welcome to stay, we’re just getting things ready to close by 9.”   Even if verbally that person’s words said ‘you’re welcome’, her actions were clearly communicating the opposite.  I am happy to report that things are progressively improving in so many ways at Elements since new management has been in place.

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On our recent visit, Michelle, Melissa and I came in for dinner and it was such a refreshing, welcoming experience that I almost immediately was wanting to return again-soon.  And we did-not too long after-just to have a couple drinks one evening.  But first let me share about our dinner experience of a couple weeks ago.

At Elements, because it is such a small establishment-(I think there may be 10 or 12 tables in the whole place), they have no need for a host or host stand.  When one opens the door to enter-they are quickly greeted verbally by either a bartender or a server standing nearby.  And then within a few seconds-a server will approach and greet and welcome the guest.  On this occasion, we were promptly seated and given our menus.  Currently they have a martini list of 500-yes, 5 Hundred different martinis!  There’s vodka martinis, gin martinis, tequila martinis, rum martinis and whiskey martinis. I think that’s all. Soon, however, they will be phasing out the 500 martinis because truly it takes guests a long time to look through that big of a cocktail list to make a decision. And according to the GM, keeping inventory of the items needed to make all those drinks is ridiculously expensive and wasteful.  Some of you may think that’s awesome-500 martinis, but do not be dismayed that they are phasing it out. They have something even better that’s going to take the place of that. I will reveal what that is later.

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Back to our dinner experience-AS we were contemplating our drink order-we noticed that one of the owners-whom we had met previously-Herb, was glancing over our way.  Once we made our drink order-each of us a different martini, one vodka, one whiskey and one gin, we began to consider our food options.  Thankfully, Elements does not have 100 appetizer and salad options and 150 meat and seafood choices!  They have a very simple basic menu.  Holly, their Chef does a great job!  She has actually come to our table to talk with us, 2 out of the last 3 times that we dined there.

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Allow me to share with you three E’s that I believe Elements are doing a great job at:

Elements gets an A on these 3 Es Essential to Service and Hospitality Success

1. Engaging the Guests-We experienced this from every member of the team and it all began with Herb, the owner coming over to our table.  He said he recognized me-I don’t think he remembered that we had met a few months back when they first took over the place. But whether he thought I looked familiar or not-is irrelevant. He was so engaging to the three of us at the table. He is warm and friendly and I kind of felt like we were at a dinner party at his home.  The welcome was so refreshing. I also noticed throughout our dinner, that Herb would visit  patrons at the bar, stopping and talking with one couple for a few minutes and then moving down the length of the bar. I didn’t see if he greeted every single person, but I assume that he probably did.

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Soon after-Herb coming to our table, the General Manager, Jim, came to greet us, and if I remember correctly, he brought our drinks to the table.  Jim, also, was such a pleasure to meet.  He is the kind of person that should be running a restaurant-and thankfully he is-at Elements. He’s kind, friendly, genuinely caring for the guests.

Our Server, also, was very engaging, pleasant and upbeat.  What she lacked in training (as in she was not familiar with the proper manner of presenting and opening wine) she made up for with her engaging personality.   Now of course it is important for a server to know such things-but that can be taught.  A positive, upbeat, engaging personality is not usually something that is as easily taught.

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In my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service-I talk about the importance of setting the tone. The greeting, the welcome and the seating of the guests is so vital to the success of the dining experience. When a guest is warmly greeted and made to feel welcome from the start, if something happens to go wrong during the course of their meal, it is so much easier to get past the Soupfly.  Guests will be more forgiving and understanding.  The service staff will not feel so awkward because they’ve established that rapport.  It’s kind of like going to a friend’s house compared to being at a stranger’s house and you have an accident.  Maybe you spill a glass of wine.  If you do this at a friend’s house-it’s not a good thing but it’s not terrible.  However, if you are at a stranger’s house and this happens, it is an awkward situation for everyone.  Accidents, or mishaps or Soupflies do happen and always will happen periodically in this business or any other, but if the guest/customer/client feels that sense of welcome-it’s as if nothing can tarnish that relationship. You just deal with/fix the problem and move on.

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As you know, Michelle and I tend to dine out often.  We have our own list of 10 criteria that we rate a restaurant on-and one of them is Management.  I tell you that unfortunately, it is more common for the manager or owner  to NOT Engage their guests than to Engage.  It seems that they often only come over if there is a problem or a complaint.  In Industry lingo it’s called “touching tables”. Part of a manager’s responsibilities is to constantly be touching tables.  A manager may not realize how important that is but I will tell you-the more often you do it and consistently, the more your guests are going to want to return.  Everybody that comes into your establishment wants to be treated like they’re special.  That few minutes that you stop at a table just to say hi to your guests, to ask how they are enjoying their food and drink, makes such a positive impact on your guests.

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2. Energy & Enthusiasm-Every single staff member we met on our recent visit to Elements exuded positive energy.  From our Server, to the Owner, the General Manager, the Busser, the Bartenders and the Chef.  There was a buzz of positive energy that was palpable.  There was a sense of excitement in the air.  No one had that negative, blah energy that we have all encountered from time to time at a restaurant.  This new ownership/management have breathed new life into this place.  When we had been there on previous occasions the staff were all talking about how there was such a feeling of uncertainty.  Now, yes there are changes that have happened and more to come but it seems that all the staff are on board and hopeful for the future.  This positive energy is readily felt and picked up by the guests.  It makes one feel happy that they are there.  I’ll tell you that such positive energy has such an impact on a person’s dining experience that it actually makes the food taste better.  Not to say the food is not good at Elements-it is -and it keeps getting better.

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I’d like to quote from my book, my friend Michael Balabon, said this in Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service:

“There is a commonality between the excitement people feel when they are seeing a show or a concert, and the excitement they feel about having dinner at a new restaurant or their favorite eatery.”

That’s the feeling that you should strive to make your guests feel when they come into your place of business, whether it be a restaurant or another type of establishment.  And Elements is succeeding on this element of Service & Hospitality.

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3. Execution-The actual effective carrying out of a plan, bringing something into fruition, doing the thing properly.  Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar does a lot of things right, not the least of which is their execution at the bar side of the establishment.  Allow me to introduce to you, Alex and Jeffery-two individuals who are masters at their game, who were recruited away from a very prestigious venue on the Las Vegas strip to join the team at Elements and to run their beverage operation.  These two gentlemen, do not just make drinks, nor do they just craft cocktails.  I would call them Genius (I refrained from using the term ‘mad’) Scientists of Spirits or Wizards of Mixology.   To watch them work is quite a treat, not to mention having the pleasure of then enjoying their creation.  These two, take such care and attention to first, doing a guest inquiry-finding out what flavors the guest likes and doesn’t like.  They even ask what cocktails one typically drinks.  After this brief, yet in depth information gathering, the inspiration begins to stir until you hear them exclaim-“I got it.”  Or “Alright, I know what I’m gonna do.” Or some similar phrase.

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Then, they begin formulating a plan, taking their mixing tumbler from spot to spot as they pull down bottle after bottle off the shelves, putting a bit of this and a bit of that-and sometimes a lot of this and a little of that-sometimes using as many as 7 or 8 or more ingredients in one cocktail.  Other times I’ve seen them grab multiple bottles of liquor and liquers and other liquids and line them up on the bar in front of the guest, explaining what certain things are and then creating the drink right there on the bar in front of the guest.  It’s so exciting to watch their eyes light up as they are taking their idea-the inspiration for a drink and then executing it with precision and care.

We could all learn a lot from Alex and Jeffery about passion, attention and focus on details, creativity, guest engagement and effective execution of plan.  Not to mention improvising.  Alex was in the middle of creating a drink for me, and when I mentioned that I’ve recently started to enjoy Negronis-he slammed on the brakes and said-“Now I really know what to make you.”  Apparently it was completely different from his original plan of a few seconds ago. I can’t tell you what was in it.  But I will say it was better than any Negroni or semblance of a Negroni I’ve ever had.

It may seem that I’m spending so much time talking about making cocktails.  That’s not the point.  It’s refreshing to see a team of people who enjoy what they do, are friendly and Engaging to the guest/customer; who exude such upbeat positive Energy and who take time, care and attention for proper Execution of their work.

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In my book, Elements Kitchen & Martini Bar get an A on these 3 Es that are Essential to Service and Hospitality Success.

Oh, I almost forgot. You’re probably wondering what they are going to replace the list of 500 Martinis with?  I told you that it would be something much better.  Well they’ve already done it.  What’s better to have a guest wade through this daunting, overwhelming abundance of choices of drinks, with such difficulty to decide OR to have to engaging individuals like Alex and Jeffery who can make a perfect drink, tailored, catered and created especially for you based upon a few simple questions of your preferences?  I think we all know the answer to that one.  And by the way-I know that these two guys can create not just 500, but unlimited number of one of a kind cocktails.

 

If you live in Vegas or find yourself here on a visit, I highly recommend that you drop by Elements for some dinner and a cocktail.  Or two.  You will be pleased that you did.  And if you see Michelle and me-if we happen to be there at the same time, come by and introduce yourself.  We’d love to meet you.

Elements Kitchen and Martini Bar is located at the Center at Spanish Trail, 4950 S. Rainbow in Las Vegas.

http://elementskitchenandmartinibar.com/

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Thank you for reading.  I so appreciate all of my readers.  We are continuing to add to our worldwide readership.  We are very close to having Soupfly followers from 70 countries!  How exciting!  Please feel free to Like and Share on Social Media.  I welcoe all your comments.

I wish you all continued Success.  Keep focused and inspired to pursue your goals and dreams, making 2015 your best year yet!

God Bless You and Cheers!

May you all have a blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter!

To order your signed copy of my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service, go here and order today! :

http://www.gettingtowowbook.com/

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Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV

 

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