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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! :
Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV