>George Miliotis was the General Manager of the California Grill restaurant in the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World. After hiring a dishwasher, he arranged for them to have a nice breakfast or lunch at the restaurant to discuss job responsibilities, expectations, and ask questions the new-hire might have. A nice meal is arranged – one that would exceed the expectations of the employee. The food presented is excellent and attractive. George has done a little pre-work, however. The dishes that are set on the table have dried food on them. Lipstick coats the rims of the water glasses. Forks, knives and spoons are spotted and dirty. George watches for the reaction of the new dishwasher and when he sees the look of surprise (or disgust), he makes his point. “It doesn’t matter how great our food is, how beautiful the setting of the table and restaurant, if you don’t pay attention to detail, the customer experience is lousy. Your job is critical to our restaurants’ success.”

Through 15 minute training sessions every day educating all California Grill employees (front-of-the-house and back-of-house) George would cover short sessions on wine, food and service. George trained servers from all works of life to be world-class food and wine experts. Every employee on every shift knew how to describe all menu items in a way that highlighted the reason that it was special. Did all these efforts pay off?

• Wine revenue represented 30%+ of total sales at the California Grill. Beverage sales in similar restaurants average only 10 – 15% of sales
• USA Today food critic wrote that the single best meal he had that year in the United States was at the California Grill
• 65% of the original staff (7 years at the time George left) were still with the restaurant. This is in an industry that averages nearly 200% turnover per year

As my new friend Penelope Tsalderi of the “Art of Serving Well” says in her blog:
“Retraining, retrenching and revitalizing, the best-of-the-best, food servers they possess, is the only way to retain customers.” For her full blog, go to: ptsaldari.posterous.com/tag/developcustomerloyalty


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