Greetings from the American Culinary Federation National Convention in Orlando! I've been here the past 2 days enjoying some sun and some rain and a multitude of great chefs. Again, it makes me grateful to be associated with the hospitality industry and the great people who continue to make things happen both front and back of house.

I was prepping today, assisting Chef Dewey LoSasso of Miami's North One 10 restaurant, in getting ready for a food demonstration tomorrow. Sometimes, it's easy to feel jaded, events such as this require an inordinate amount of on-the-ground logistics, and that was my frame of mind as I made my way to the host hotel. It is hard work for all of us. But, what started as a standard "event management" day ended with an appreciation of what we can accomplish when we put ourselves into the mindset of service. Seems like a no brainer. We are in the hospitality industry, right? But sometimes I forget and it becomes a burden, rather than a joy.

I think what turned the tide for me was witnessing the passion and attention to detail everyone at the host hotel exhibited. The World Center Marriott is huge by anyone's standards. You'd think it easy to get lost in the shuffle. But that wasn't the case. Everyone I dealt with, from the Valet to the Concierge to the Bellman to the phenomenal kitchen staff and Banquet Chef made me feel so taken care of that, by day's end, I was simply in awe.

My normal course of writing on FOHBOH deals with social media and how it can help operators connect with patrons. And I had a great moment of clarity today, that it all boils down to serving our customers. And if social media is part of that, and we approach it with an attitude of better serving them, it works like a charm.

I know I've said you have to approach social media in context of your overall objectives. And a huge part of that is elevating the standards of service. Providing information and connections that are useful to customers, and to us. So, please do think about how social media fits into your overall communications mix - but add this element of thought. How does it help me better serve my customers? Does it help? If it's a hindrance, don't do it. But how can we know without engaging those customers and finding out how they want to be connected to your operation and how they want to receive information.

We have the ability to bring people together, facilitate time with friends and family over a great meal, and the ability to make them feel that - when they're in "my house" they'll be taken care of, in my thoughts, my actions, my communications and networking, and the overall service I provide.

Social media, in all its forms, can help facilitate those customer relationships. What it provides is engagement and two-way conversation, which ultimately helps cement loyalty.

To the chefs, operators, waitstaff, marketing people, finance managers, bartenders and dishwashers who make it happen every day, I thank you. It is an honor to be part of the foodservice industry with you.

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Tags: american, culinary, federation, hospitality, marriott, scroggins, service

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Comment by John Scroggins on July 14, 2009 at 6:10am
I'm slow on the draw this morning - by the time I responded to initial comments, there were others! Thanks again. I do need to be reminded that service and a service mentality keeps me focused on the prize - and the great thing is, there's really not "prize" in the end - the service mentality is the ongoing reward. Tcampos you nailed it right on the head - it's when I keep that frame of mind in every thing I do that all flows effortlessly. I'm glad I have a forum to discuss and reinforce with this group.
Comment by John Scroggins on July 14, 2009 at 6:06am
Hi guys! Thanks for the comments. Again, it goes back to how we support one another as a group. I always appreciate reading your thoughts and hearing about what you've got going on as well. I don't know why it's been so apparent to me, especially in the past year, that getting back to basics solves a lot of problems. Seems simple, but I think the economy is largely at play. When we're faced with doing more with less it is easier just to complain about it, but when I pull things back to the basics it makes it better. Simplicity is a good thing when you've got a lot going on.

J. Stewart - wondering if you've had a chance to try Richard Blais' new burger concept in Atlanta? Sounds like it's doing well and certainly plays into that return to basics, but with an upscale flair. I really like what I've seen from him, in my limited interaction - he's on Twitter and makes a point to get out in the industry - he "gets it."

Ty, I hope you had a great weekend with the 11 month old. I think the concept of having staff mention, "hey, follow us on Twitter and you can get things like this free" is a brilliant wrap-around - brings it full circle and demonstrates the value of staying connected to the patron. You should write about that sometime - how you complete that circle. Also, as time goes on, if there's a way to keep track of those who do sign up after hearing what they've been missing.

Hope you're all having a great week.
Comment by tcampos on July 14, 2009 at 1:16am
Great post I agree...attitude of service is not something you put on and take off when at work. It is something you carry with you throughout each day. Someone who truly has the attitude of service will always serve other people, no matter what the circumstances.
Comment by Andy Swingley on July 13, 2009 at 8:35pm
Great post John....we stray from our servant heart at times but thanks for the check in on how we do this!

Operator
Comment by Ty Sullivan on July 13, 2009 at 12:01pm
You nailed it John. I can tell you from first hand experience that the in-house customer service must be spot on and can work hand in hand with actually driving people to look at your websites, Tweet you and play on your Facebook. I actually had our CSR's telling people at check out, "Oh, you could have had that for free today (maybe) if you were following us on Twitter!"
In that single line they, open a dialogue with the guest, try to save them money and show that they "get it".
Yup, it's all hand in hand.
OK, get out of the sun now and get back to work! LOL See you @cafemetro on Twitter!

Non-Operator
Comment by J. Stewart Singleton on July 13, 2009 at 10:13am
John,

Well said. I was unable to attend the ACF event this year, but did get to enjoy it a few years ago in Atlanta. It is amazing how well things fall in place and how much everyone comes together at these meetings. The Foodservice Industry is truly a "family".

Non-Operator
Comment by Keith Bernhardt on July 13, 2009 at 8:09am
John,
Great post.
We mustn't forget to thank the customers and the clients, without whom, we wouldn't be able to utilize our skills fully. We can use them(the skills) with each other, but it's the clients and customers who are the ones we must please.

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