Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Timeless Hospitality

Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne
My wife, Carole, planned a wonderful birthday weekend for me in Milwaukee. (No gifts please. Your readership and comments are gifts enough.) The trip included a Brewer’s game at Miller Park and a stay at one of the country’s coolest and best-run hotels, The Iron Horse. Carole announced that she had a surprise outing planned during our stay. Immediately, I thought…a tour of the Harley Davidson Museum or, better yet, enrollment in Harley’s Motorcycle Boot Camp. I imagined myself decked in black leather, boots, and a shiny helmet racing on a V-Rod, jumping canyons à la Evel Knievel.  Instead, we drove down a pretty little country road to a quaint museum called Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot. Ten Chimneys is the famed estate of the iconic couple of theatre’s Golden Age, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. While not what I had envisioned, it was, indeed, a surprise and the experience was wonderful.  

The Lunts staged their house as if it were a Broadway set. Each room is designed in a different motif, with a liveliness and style that lured Hollywood and Broadway luminaries. Rooms magically combine the garish with the elegant. Some rooms are named appropriately to reflect eras of the theatre. Others touch on humor like "The Flirtation Room." Bedrooms are named for beloved guests such as Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, and Noël Coward.

The Lunts went to great lengths to make their guests feel welcome and to create for them memorable experiences.  Guests were hosted in beautiful suites, wined, dined, entertained, and bestowed with gifts. The Lunts maintained that hospitality is all about thoughtful planning, theatricality, and attention to detail.

"Thoughtful planning, theatricality, and attention-to-detail.” The very pillars that caterers and hospitality professionals hold dear. They are also the foundation that makes The Iron Horse such a special hotel.  So, while I didn't take Harley lessons, I did take a lesson from the famous couple: we should imagine ourselves as theatrical producers or directors. We set the stage and create the magic so that our clients may star. As they take their bows, we can await the best of all client requests: “Encore!’’

Carole Wool

Friday, August 10, 2012

Swinging For the Fences - Part III

In our series exploring the parallels between Major League Baseball and the catering game, we've covered the subject from the perspective of both the owners and the managers. The MLB season is now in the midst of what are commonly referred to as the “Dog Days of August” and it’s time to turn our attention to the people who really make it happen.   Assuming that the management has put all of the pieces of the team puzzle in place, at this stage, the game is strictly in the hands of those on the field: The Players. 

By mid August, the end of the regular season looms and the playoffs are in sight. This is when would-be contenders fade fast and the most resilient, talented, and disciplined teams surge ahead. Players are responsible for staying healthy, making smart behavioral choices, narrowing their focus, and playing harder than ever. Ball teams are made up of power hitters, speedsters, dependable fielders, and domineering pitchers; each player working to maximize his individual success and that of his team. The same can be said of catering companies. Here, salespeople, cooks and chefs, operations staff, and event servers must work in harmony for the benefit of the clients and the team.

Catering company employees are responsible for keeping their energy high, approaching each event enthusiastically, and staying alert to handle any curveballs.  In order to achieve success, the entire staff must be dependable and work together trustingly.  Chefs rely on smart work from the sales team.  Servers depend on good decisions by the operations team.  Sales people must trust their event staff to serve their clients well.  If the entire team can work together, the caterer will be hitting home runs.  If resentment and egos get in the way, there can be no hope of becoming the champions.

Success all boils down to player execution. Home run titles, strike out records, MVP and Cy Young awards are fantastic but it is a World Series trophy that sums up the success of the team.  Likewise, reaching personal sales goals, moving up to Sous Chef, or learning a new service style is valuable for personal growth but catering companies are judged based on whether or not they hit it out of the park on event day.

And who does the judging?  The Fans.  But that’s for next time….