We’re excited to introduce a new Server Spotlight series on Open for Business, where we showcase the best of the best on the frontlines of hospitality: the dining room. Check back each month for new conversations with the pros who know how to make every guest feel like a VIP.
Restaurateurs, better than anyone else, know that today’s diners are savvy and have many choices. Diners may try a restaurant for the food, but they keep coming back for the service.
Servers manage the frontline–literally–and can transform “it was a good dinner” to “I can’t wait to tell my friends” evangelism. Those extraordinary experiences breed loyalty and keep diners hungering for more.
That’s why we’re leveraging our community to celebrate the men and women who often work double shifts, smile through even the most trying experiences, and make you feel at home. Unlike my conversations with restaurateurs, you probably won’t recognize these names—unless you’ve had the good fortune to experience their hospitality.
So many restaurant groups deserve recognition for creating a culture of great hospitality. The Alicart Restaurant Group is one that sits at the top. Their food is not only plate-licking good but the servers always remember my name and my favorites (Spicy Scarpariello Wings followed by Shrimp Scampi and topped off with the aptly named Titanic dessert).
I vividly recall a conversation with Alicart’s CEO Jeffrey Bank about one of his key ingredients for success (in full disclosure, Jeffrey was an early Venga investor). He said, “We want everyone to feel like they’re home. Our goal is to give warm, memorable experiences around a homemade meal created by caring, nurturing and enthusiastic teams.”
Server Melissa Estefania from Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in Times Square epitomizes that caring, nurturing spirit. As one diner raved, “We had a great server, Melissa. She treated my entire family with so much love that made the evening that much better! Outstanding experience as always!”
Reinforcing her hospitable nature, Bank added, “Melissa embraces every guest enthusiastically with genuine hospitality making them part of our Carmine’s family. Her confidence and pride in our culinary creations enables her to guide them through our menu and concept with joy.”
Here, I ask Melissa all about her start in the industry, her approach to hospitality, and her best advice for others.
Winston: How did you get started in hospitality?
Melissa Estefania: Well, I like to dine out myself, and just from dining out, I realized that service was something I would definitely be interested in. I noticed that often, servers didn’t look like they were “working” in a traditional sense; they looked like they were enjoying themselves and enjoying making other people happy. Not too many people go to work and actually enjoy themselves. So when I was 18, I started working in a restaurant as a hostess.
Winston: What is the best part of working in hospitality, and what makes you stay at Carmine’s?
Melissa: The best part is really the connections I’m able to make with people. I’m always happy working in restaurants because I like to make people feel the way I like to be treated, which means an enjoyable experience beyond just the taste of their food.
I also get to work with some really great people. I know my coworkers collaborate as a team and have each others’ backs, so they’ve really become like a second family. This team pride also enhances our guests’ experiences, because they get to see how happy we are to be at work every day.
Winston: What do you think distinguishes hospitality from just plain service? How do you go about personalizing experiences? [Read more…]