Chef and restaurant mogul David Falk’s leadership/culture philosophy can be highlighted by 3 words, words that have attracted the attention of national food and lifestyle media. As a result, Falk is being courted for a potential show about his trademark cultural belief:
Blow People Away.
Words easy to say, 10 times harder to do. But Falk provided a specific blueprint for how to administer small acts of astonishing hospitality (what he calls a BPA).
First, let me assure you that the driving force of BPA isn’t a gimmick–it’s paying off via explosive growth. With Boca restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Falk’s flagship restaurant, his Boca Restaurant Group will soon have 7 restaurants in 4 states, with plans for 11 more of their Nada upscale Mexican food restaurants. Revenues will roar past the current $23.5 million.
Back to that blueprint. For starters, Falk houses his mantra within a broader leadership philosophy, what he calls the “Pyramid of Bad-assery”: pay attention to detail, live and breathe the spirit of hospitality by always putting others first, and then take that to the next level with a BPA. (And yes, even the employees use BPA as a verb, as in, “I’m totally gonna BPA the family at table 11”)
Each BPA then requires 4 things:
1. Aggressively listen to the customer.
I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill “customer is always right” stuff. I’m talking about intensely listening for opportunities to serve in memorable ways.
One of Falk’s favorite BPA’s underscores this point. Falk remembered one patron saying how much she liked rabbit. He stalked the reservation book, waiting for the next time she came in–a month later. Falk prepared an off-menu meal of rabbit for her.
Based on one off-hand comment a month prior.
A Boca employee relayed his favorite BPA to me. It came from an off-hand remark about a diner really being a “PB&J girl at heart” despite all the fine food she had eaten in her life. The comment produced a dramatic presentation of a pile of PB&J sandwiches cut into quarters.
I can confirm this experience first-hand after a Boca visit. A side-joke I made about wanting chicken fingers and Capri Sun (remember those punch juice drinks?) for dinner spurred a server’s trip to a nearby Walgreens and the playful unveiling of a meal of…well, you know.
So ask yourself if you and your team are listening to the customer, or if you’re listening to the customer.
2. Act on what you hear with a truly creative idea.
One college football fan wanted to watch a big game during dinner. A quick survey revealed no other patron cared about the game, so just setting up a TV at the table wasn’t an option. So a clever server set up a TV outside the restaurant’s main window, on the sidewalk, with a network of sheets around it so that only the patron could see the TV from where she was sitting.
Not to be missed, the autonomy the employees are given to exercise their creativity through BPA’s (pretty much at will) is extremely motivating.
When I asked servers what they liked about working in Falk’s restaurants, without fail I heard “I get to participate in BPA’s”. 400 highly motivated, do-gooder employees unleashed on the dining universe.
Jealous of the zealousness? Empower your employees to get their freak on by championing their original ideas.
3. Make pride in flawless execution part of the culture.
One server discovered a family of patrons had a daughter at home who loved cooking. Back home that family went with an uncooked beef Wellington (their daughter’s favorite dish), complete with cooking instructions hand-written by the chef and presented in dramatic fashion. Tears ensued.
Falk role-modeled great execution in delivering a BPA for his employees. (Yes, the idea also applies to employees)
Falk kept the employee holiday party agenda a secret. Knowing that the restaurant industry is notorious for gossip, he began to spread dis-information on what they were doing for the party as a head fake. He then delivered on the real agenda, an all-expenses paid, 3 restaurant bus stop tour. (No, not to his restaurants)
Employees blown away.
Sure your team executes. But is flawless execution in the vernacular?
4. Wrap it all in passion and intensity.
This isn’t just feel-good stuff. I asked two servers to describe Falk and the culture he creates in one word. The first said, “Intense.” The second said, “Period.”
The BPA is a business model fueled by passion and intensity, not just aw-shucks hospitality.
It requires an all-in mindset– one that you can role-model.
So apply the idea of a BPA and you’ll blow away your workforce–and your business goals.
Sounds tasty, no?
This article by Scott Mautz also appeared on Inc.com. To read more Inc. articles by Scott Mautz, click here.
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