Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taking feedback

Here are the two ends of the service spectrum for chefs in my opinion. On one end, some feel that they have the last say in what you're having that night, somewhat of a hardcore Omakase, or tasting menu. The other side has the chef following every whim of the customer. I can't say exactly where I fit, so I need to take lessons from my other life as a sales engineer.

I think one of the best lessons I've taken working with some amazing sales reps is to be as consultative as possible during the sales cycle. Ultimately, we're here to serve our customers, and when some deals fall short, we can often point towards our sales strategy where we had a gap in information. In this case, at times I have gaps in what I consider top notch, and what my guests consider top notch. I need to narrow that gap, and narrow it quickly.

My guests carve out a full evening of their Saturday and spend 6 or more hours with people they might not know. I owe it to them to make sure they have as good of a time as possible. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. I've made my share of mistakes with every aspect of the dinner party and cooking. Everyone learns, but how do I learn as quickly as possible?

The only way to improve the overall quality of the dinner party experience is to always solicit feedback. And everything has to go into this effort. You have to make your guests feel comfortable about giving you suggestions and comments. Offer up some areas where you think you may have fallen short; show humility. Demonstrate that you are willing to execute on a meal or concept that exceeds their expectations. However, show that you are firm in what you consider a good dish.

For example, some feedback I've received is that I appear too intense while I work. I can appreciate that comment. I am definitely passionate about what I do. At the same time I don't want to alienate milder guests. For this item, I'll look at my body language, and see how I can keep my intensity high, but appear softer. At the same time, I will review the invite lists a bit more stringently. Invite the best guests you can. And demonstrate you'll listen and work for them.

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