Soupfly Travels & Training March 2016

Welcome Back to Soupfly!

March has been a very  busy month and I am very grateful for all the amazing opportunities and experiences we’ve had thus far.  This is an update of our month and recent travels.

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Getting the  Message of “Getting to WOW!” out

Violette’s Vegan

I have been having great opportunities to speak about and train on WOW! Service & Hospitality and I Am the Guest Experience. At the beginning of the month, I continued with a 4 part Getting to WOW! series for the staff of one of our local vegan restaurants-Violette’s Vegan.  Violette’s is a very new restaurant that serves “food that loves you”, owned by former World Series of Poker Champion Cyndy Violette. They have a very friendly staff who are eager to learn and elevate their Service & Hospitality.  It has been a true pleasure working with them and their commitment is evident in that we meet at 9 pm after the restaurant closes.  Never once have I heard any of them complain about the time, rather, they all show up with eager expectation and with positive energy, ready to learn.  With that attitude and focus, I am confident that Violette’s is on their way to Service Excellence.

 

Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

Another new opportunity I’ve had to teach WOW! Service & Hospitality has been at Ellis Island Casino & Brewery here in Las Vegas. Locally owned, a few blocks from the world famous Las Vegas Strip, this venue has a management team that truly cares about elevating their Service & Hospitality.  We had the opportunity to teach two sessions (the day before we left for our trip) and although many of the staff sitting in the training have been at Ellis Island for a long time (10-22 years)  each one of them were attentive, focused, and eager to learn what Getting to WOW! is all about.  It’s very refreshing to stand in front of a group that really wants to learn and sees the value in what is being presented.

When an organization’s leadership invests in training their staff, the team (consciously or unconsciously) begin to realize that management actually cares about their success.  This then leads to everyone starting to up their game.  Organizations that don’t see the need or the value of investing in training tend to stagnate and get to a point where they’re just going through the motions.  The Service & Hospitality industry is a very demanding business and it’s not easy to take care of, give great service, maintain a positive attitude towards-your guests all the time, every time.  But when the Service Professional feels that the leadership have their back and want them to succeed, there is a greater chance that they will. Working with the Front of the House team at Ellis Island was a very rewarding opportunity for me and we are planning for more sessions as I write this.

St. Louis Bound

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The day after the Ellis Island training, Michelle, (my wife) and our 3 puppy babies-Lilly, Carly & Bruno-woke up at 5 am, packed and loaded the car for our long journey to St. Louis, Missouri.  We were traveling there to celebrate Michelle’s father’s 70th birthday.  What made it a ‘long journey’?  Well, for whatever reason, we decided to drive all the way through- 23 hours of drive time-to St. Louis.  Michelle and I took turns driving, the puppies helped navigate-neither Lilly or Carly tend to sleep while we’re driving.  Bruno, our 3 pound Chihuahua, however, made out the best, as he was very content to sit on the lap of whichever one of us was not driving.  Of course, he prefers Michelle’s lap.  We made it to St. Louis in just about 26 hours from the time we left Las Vegas.

Acero Ristorante

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Once we got settled in our hotel, I went to see my friend Chef Adam Gnau of Acero Ristorante in Maplewood,-near St. Louis.  Adam is one of the very first Industry Professionals that I interviewed for my book, Getting to WOW!  Not only is Adam an amazingly talented chef and has many culinary accomplishments at such a young age, he genuinely gets what WOW! Service & Hospitality is all about. So, to finally see him since my book came out and to hand deliver him a copy was a great honor for me.  Thanks, Adam for all your input in Getting to WOW!  For my readers who live in St. Louis, if you’ve never been to, please do yourself a favor and go have dinner at Acero in Maplewood-you’ll be glad you did.  And tell Adam, I sent you.

Book Signing where it all began-Paul Mineo’s Trattoria

The next day we had a Getting to WOW! Book signing event at Paul Mineo’s Trattoria in Westport Plaza.  It was while working at Paul Mineo’s, many years ago, that I got the inspiration for writing my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service.  And although I learned that the owner, Brigitte, would not be there this time for the event, I did get the opportunity to see her when I dropped by the day before to check out the location. We had a nice event catching up with some family and friends at Paul Mineo’s including my friend Al Danklefsen, who contributed to my book and long time regular-John Pisa who just happened to be visiting St. Louis at that time-and Michelle’s friends- Vickie & Steve.   I also got to see some former co-workers-James, the Chef, Brett the Bartender, and Jose and Roldan in the kitchen.  Michael, Brigitte’s brother, was a wonderful host and we were very grateful for the opportunity to have our event there.  If you are St. Louis, and you wish to enjoy traditional Italian fare in a beautiful setting, then Paul Mineo’s is the place for you.

 

Family Time

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After our event at Paul Mineo’s, the next few days was spent visiting Michelle’s family around St. Louis.  We celebrated her Father’s 70th birthday and also got to connect with other family members-some of whom Michelle had not seen for years. Every day we drove somewhere-one hour outside of St. Louis, one and a half hours out of St. Louis and it was well worth it. To be able to take a trip like this and see so many people over a span of a few days is a blessing.   We even were met with a heavy burst of snowfall on the drive out to her sister’s for Sunday brunch.  It was pretty to see.  It’s always nice to see snow.  I just prefer to not live by it. Thanks to Shannon and Jason and their family for the warm hospitality on that cold snowy day.

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Our last night in St. Louis we had dinner with Michelle’s family at the restaurant we had our first date at over 3 years ago-Helen Fitzgeralds in South County.

After 4 days in St. Louis, it was time to begin heading west again.  Michelle’s son, Greg lives in Kansas City.  He is a Social Worker and although we would be driving right thru, his schedule was not going to allow us to see him, at all.  But just as we were on the outskirts of town, Michelle said, “I’ll just text him once more to see if he can get away for a few minutes.”  Talk about being in tune, when Michelle texted him, we were just coming upon the exact exit at which Greg was doing a home visit.  I don’t remember the name or number (of course, Michelle does) but Greg immediately texted her back and said that’s exactly where he was at.  So, we got off the exit and drove  a few minutes to where he was.  Even just for 5 minutes to say hello and exchange hugs-our timing was perfect.

We arrived in Loveland on late Monday evening.  The front desk staff at the La Quinta were very friendly.  However, we wondered why they chose to put us in a room that was immediately in front of where construction would be taking place the next morning at 8 am.  Their reply was that they did not know the night before where they would be starting the construction.  I find that very hard to believe.  It just so happened that all rooms on that floor were unoccupied except for ours.  It was very disruptive and impossible to sleep in the morning (after having driven for 14 hours the night before) and hearing a constant tapping and banging right outside our door.

Great customer service would be to consider your guests situation- are they perhaps planning/hoping to sleep in in the morning?  Perhaps giving them a room that is far from the construction would make their stay more enjoyable.  As I mentioned, the staff were very friendly, but this one aspect of our stay made it less than pleasant. Also, after having requested for a late check out,  both the night before, and that morning, two times in the span of 10 minutes, we had housekeeping knocking at our door at 9 am to see if they could clean our room.  This is NOT WOW! Service.

Contrast that with our stay at a La Quinta in St. Louis, where they too, were doing construction,  but they actually closed the entire floor where the construction was taking place, so as to not be disruptive to the guests.

The front desk staff at the Loveland La Quinta did help me out when  I had asked them where I might find an Office Max or some place similar to make copies for my presentation, but instead of giving directions, they offered to make the copies for me.  Thanks, La Quinta staff.  That saved us time and money.  Next time, please  focus on being attentive to your guests’ need for peace and quiet.

I have much more to share so we will close for now and resume with Part 2  in a couple of days.

I am very grateful for ALL my Soupfly readers from around the world.  I would like to recognize and say Thank You specifically to our March readers from the following countries:  

United States, Germany, Philippines, Brazil, Slovakia, Australia, United Kingdom, India, Czech Republic, Italy, Singapore, Canada, Malawi, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Russia, Viet Nam, Belgium, Indonesia, Colombia, France, Latvia, Slovenia, Portugal, Norway, Austria, South Africa, Spain

 

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Elevating Service & Hospitality,

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Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas, NV

http://gettingtowowbook.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soupfly’s Travel Adventures -Part 2

WELCOME BACK TO SOUPFLY!

 

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Continuing from our post from November 19…

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While in Minneapolis, we returned to the Mall of America the next day to shop and enjoy the day together with my daughter, Kimberly, while Lilly and Carly (our puppies) stayed at Kimberly and Jesse’s apartment.

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http://cravemoa.com/

We ate lunch at CRAVE, which features both modern American fare as well as sushi. As we approached the host stand, I inquired as to whether they had any booths available.  We were informed that they were all occupied but that they had a table available immediately.  We opted for the immediate table rather than wait for a booth to open up.  As we were being escorted to the table by the hostess, we saw that there was a booth that was vacant in the same area and that was partially cleared and cleaned.  We asked the hostess if we might be able to wait for that booth to be cleaned and set for us.  She rolled her eyes and then said yes.  I realize that it wasn’t what her plan was, however, we told her we were willing to wait for it.  As a host or hostess, one must be gracious, have an upbeat, pleasant attitude and not show disdain for your guests.

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Once we were seated, the service, led by our server, Ozzy, was very good.  He and his team did a nice job of cheerfully serving our lunch.  He made great recommendations, was not fazed by the modifications I requested on my entree and it was really a pleasure to be served by him.  There were only a couple issues-one, the glasses were gritty on the outside, as if there were a problem with their dishwasher, and I, was served my meal ahead of my wife and my daughter.  I know we live in a society that is very progressive in many ways, however, it is still proper to serve Ladies First.  I brought the gritty glass issue up to Mikayla, the service supervisor, who promptly brought us new glasses.  And the General Manager, Jude was at our table within minutes to apologize for the situation.  The food was very good and overall it was a  good experience.  If you go to Mall of America, I recommend that you give CRAVE a try.

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Actually, there is a new CRAVE that has opened at Downtown Summerlin, here in Las Vegas.  Michelle has already been a couple times and I’ve been once.  Again, overall-good-I wouldn’t say “very” this time and also, I will suggest that the host staff needs some training.  This seems to be such a common theme many places that we go.  I’ve done a whole blog post on this back on July 17, entitled “A Greeting, A Seating & Setting the Tone”.  A host/hostess’ job is so vital to setting the tone for the entire service.  What you do is so important. A host/hostess’ attitude, demeanor, personality and communication skill play a very big part in the overall success of the restaurant.  Check out my post from July for more on this topic:

https://soupfly.wordpress.com/?s=a+greeting

After two days in Minnesota it was time for us to travel south to Ottawa, Illinois-my hometown, to visit my Mom and her husband George.  Although it was quite cold in Minnesota-35 during the day and in the 20s at night, it was sunny with no precipitation until we left.  Literally, the snow storm came the day we left.  Thank God!  We drove 6 uneventful hours with the puppies still comfortable and enjoying their   puppy carseat.  If you have small dogs and you travel often, I highly recommend that you try it out for your little furry ones.  You and they will be glad you did!

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In Ottawa, it was v-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-y cold and windy!  BRRRRRRR! I am not fond of the cold in the least.  We met my Mom and George for breakfast at a local diner.  We found out that that day happened to be George’s birthday-his 94th birthday!  God Bless him!  At 94 years of age, George acts like he is 20 years younger.  He always has an upbeat, cheerful and positive attitude.  He is not a complainer.  He just seems to love life.  What a great example for all of us.

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We also learned from George that during WWII he had been involved in something called Operation Varsity-which was the last and most spectacular Airborne Invasion in all of history.  It happened right on the heels of the Battle of the Bulge bringing in replacements for all the troops lost in that battle.

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As we were sitting at my Mom’s house, George pulled a small piece of paper out of his wallet and began to describe the event.  He had been amongst the over 20,000 paratroopers and glidertroopers that landed at the Rhine River in the Ruhr Basin in Germany for this assault.  As he began talking, Michelle said we should record this.  So, I asked George to stop and start over so I could get it on film. You can watch the clip of George talking about Operation Varsity here:

 

(Sorry, still having trouble uploading video. Soon to come when I repost this)

After a short few hours of visiting my Mom and George in Ottawa, it was time to head out to St. Louis.  The puppies also enjoyed the short visit with Carly spending most of it sitting on my Mom’s lap.

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The weather was sunny and clear as we drove south to the place where Michelle and I met, just two years earlier.  We arrived in St. Louis just as the sun was about to set and seeing the sun glistening on the Arch as we pulled into town brought a feeling of warmth to our hearts.  However, it was cold outside.  But thankfully the next two days were the warmest it had been in St. Louis for weeks.  65 degrees in St. Louis in the middle of November was a nice welcome for us!

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Saturday evening was the going away party for Michelle’s daughter, Melissa.  She would be moving out to Las Vegas, so she would be joining us on the trek back in a few days. It was great to spend a few days in St. Louis to visit Michelle’s family who all miss her so dearly.  And of course Lilly and Carly, too, soooooooo enjoyed their homecoming as well.

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One evening, we met up with Julia Petrovic, a long time friend of Michelle’s and the person who was most instrumental in her following the path to her nursing career.  Although that was the first time I had ever met Julia, she has been a wonderful, encouraging supporter/follower of me/Soupfly.  Thanks, Julia, not only for following Soupfly but more importantly for guiding Michelle to pursue nursing. Every person in our lives has helped lead us to where we are-so in a way she too was a part of Michelle and I meeting.

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We were blessed and thankful to spend time with Michelle’s family.  Not enough time of course since there are so many of them.  Thank you all for your warm hospitality!

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Most of the time in St. Louis, we enjoyed home cooked meals with family but on our final day we had decided to catch up with some friends and to dine out. We started with lunch, but before that, we visited a place where I had worked for over 3 years-Paul Mineo’s Trattoria, a beautiful Italian restaurant in Westport Plaza.

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While we only had a short time, as we were planning on meeting a friend elsewhere, we did have the pleasure of seeing Brigitte Mineo, the owner and her brother,  Michael Clark briefly.   It was while I was working at Paul Mineo’s about 6 years ago. that I first began conceptualizing my idea for both the tv show and my book, Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service.  I was very happy to reconnect with Brigitte and Michael after a handful of years. Michelle and I each enjoyed a glass of wine, courtesy of Brigitte, while  I shared with them about the progress of the book and the show.  They seemed genuinely happy for my growing success.

Next came lunch-unfortunately, my friend had to cancel at the last minute but I decided to still stick with our plan of eating lunch at Patrick’s (Formerly Pujol’s 5) also, in Westport. It would just be Michelle and me.  To say that we were disappointed is an understatement.

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First, the booths, all had torn upholstery.  We received a half-hearted greeting from someone who shouted to us from behind the bar as we walked in.  Our server was not very friendly, even seemed defensive when we told her that Michelle’s burger was not cooked properly.  She was pretty inattentive.  There were just too many things to even go into detail here.  Suffice to say, it was not even  an ok lunch.  I used to work there and I do know Patrick Jr. and Sr.  I expected it to be better than it was.  Unfortunately, neither one was in and the manager that did come to our table (Larissa-I think) was not very engaging and didn’t exhibit any care or concern for our disappointment.  She said, “I’ll let Patrick know.” Ok.  Well. Now I’m letting Patrick know here.  Actually, I did send Patrick a message via Linkedin upon our return to Las Vegas but as of yet, I have not received a reply.

 

Dinner that evening was much better, though.  Following our theme-ok, my theme of wanting to reconnect with people and restaurants that I had known when I lived in St. Louis, I made reservations for us at one of the places that I used to frequent when I lived in Maplewood-Acero.

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Every time I had eaten or drank at Acero, I was always warmly-not just greeted- but welcomed.  And the food and service were always excellent.  Acero, is part of the Fiala Food Group of restaurants in St. Louis, owned by Jim Fiala, which includes The Crossing and formerly Liluma and City Garden.  My friend, Adam Gnau is the chef at Acero.  I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my book earlier during the summer and he is referenced in it.  We were joined by our friends Lisa and Volkan for dinner.

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Acero occupies a beautiful old brick building on Manchester Blvd. in Maplewood. In fact, the word, Acereo means “Maple” in Italian. The decor is simple and beautiful.  The lighting and the music create a very pleasant and inviting ambience.  We were, as I was always used to-warmly greeted by the hostess upon our arrival.  Our server, did  a nice job explaining the menu and made some good suggestions for cocktails.

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While dinner service was good, what really set it apart for us, was Adam coming out and explaining many of the dishes to us.  For example he described a pasta dish called pece-which if one just read it on the menu you may not be too excited about it.  But he enthusiastically explained that, although simple in ingredients-   the flavor was amazing.  So, with that recommendation,we had to try it.  And when it was served to Michelle, and we all tried it, we all agreed-it was great!

The food was great-Michelle had her favorie-duck and she was quite pleased with it.  I loved the crudo and I can’t even remember what entree I had but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall, our dining experience at Acero was very good with the exception of our server holding our glasses at the top/on the rim when placing them on our table, rather than on the lower portion of the glass.  I politely pointed this out to her and asked for them to be switched out for clean ones.  After that point, I feel that she was not wanting to be as engaging as she had been at the outset.

A server may not want to be corrected on something they do but this is a very basic point of service that all servers especially in a place like Acero should be well aware of  and not need to be reminded of.  So, as a reminder, “The top half of the glass is mine (the guest), the bottom half of the glass is yours (server).” I also want to mention, Tom was very attentive when our server was at other tables and he helped maintain the right balance of attention.

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Though we had a wonderful time visiting family and friends for 3 days in St. Louis, we still had yet another destination on our journey…Kansas City.  So, the next morning, we loaded up the car once again, bid adieu to St. Louis and headed west.  This time we were off to visit Michelle’s son Greg and his wife, Megan.

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To BE CONTINUED…

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As always, thanks for reading.  I appreciate all my readers and your continued support!  Please Share on Social Media.  And I welcome all your comments.

My book-Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service is still available for special pre-order price of only $20.00!

If you have not yet pre-ordered your copy, I invite you to go to my website and do so today!!

http://www.christoffjweihman.com/my-book.html

God bless you all and Cheers!

Christoff J. Weihman

ASPIRE Enterprises

Las Vegas,  NV