I just signed a contract for my first consulting gig. It’s for a six-month time period with Martin’s, a top steak restaurant chain. It’s headquartered in New York City, where I have just returned after obtaining my Ph.D. at age 29 in hospitality management from Michigan State University. New York City is where my parents live and I had placed an ad in Time Out magazine stating that I could help any restaurant obtain more sales and better customer repeat business by following my systems of “how to.”
Since high school I had worked in many capacities in varied types of restaurants. I had been employed as a bus boy, a bartender, a waitstaff person, a sous-chef, a broiler man and even as a head chef. I had also been a cashier and a maitre d’ along with helping the accountant in the back office calculate food and liquor costs. I had done it all.
My interview with James Martin went very well. At the end of the interview he said that I was one of 17 applicants and that he would later send for the three best applicants for a final interview before choosing the consultant that he felt would be the best for his 19 restaurants.
A month went by and I got the call back from Mr. Martin. When I arrived at his downtown offices, Mr. Martin said that he had been making all business decisions on his own and was now at a stage where he wanted his wife, Merle, and his daughter, Serena, to become more active in future business decisions.
Mr. Martin asked me explicitly how I could increase sales. I said that I would tell him one and only one way as I did not want to give away all my secrets without a business contract. He agreed, and I told him how to increase his dessert business by offering $1 desserts on the menu, which he thought was a crazy idea. But I explained that a square 2-inch piece of eggless chocolate cake would only cost management about 20 cents and would bring in a dollar.
Mr. Martin thought my idea was great, and he and I agreed on a six-month contract right there. I thanked Mr. and Mrs. Martin and their daughter, Serena, and left.
I started the following Monday by visiting the local Martin’s restaurant and observing the method of operation. I then visited the other 18 Martin’s restaurants. I can tell you that I ate well. I don’t drink but I managed to watch the bartenders in action as well as how the drinks were prepared and how these were served to the customers by the waitstaff.
During my six months I prepared a new manual of how to handle customers from the time of their arrival at the restaurant until the time they left the restaurant. Here are some of the items from my manual:
- The waitstaff upon approaching the seated diners are to speak to them immediately and say “Thank you for choosing Martin’s and I am here to make your dining experience a most pleasurable one.”
- When presenting the guest check the waitstaff should leave hard candies as a gift for each of the diners,and state that, if any of the diners is diabetic, non-sugar candies are available.
- The waitstaff should and must say thank you to the diners when they leave and tell them “I trust that you had an excellent dining experience here at Martin’s.”
- All entrees that are served with French fries or mashed potatoes are to have an extra large portion of each to impress the customers on the large amount of food on the serving plate.
- During the meal and much earlier than at the end of the meal, the waitstaff should place the colorful dessert pictures menu in the center of the table to inspire the customers to already be thinking of dessert even before they finish their meal. Besides the $1 eggless chocolate cake piece, there would be other high profit desserts for the customers to be thinking about while dining on their entrées.
- Water glasses will be large enough to hold 18 not 12 ounces of water to reduce the time needed for refilling empty water glasses.
- Salt and pepper shakers will be checked by the waitstaff upon their entering the restaurant for their work shift to make sure that the containers for the salt and pepper shakers are wiped clean.
- Waitstaff cannot wear blue jeans on their work shift and must be dressed clean looking and freshly shaved. No overdone makeup on the female waitstaff and absolutely no cleavage.
I have more than the above items, but I do not wish to disclose them here for fear the competition would then learn of them.
I am glad to report that, at the end of the six-month contract, Mr. Martin was so pleased with the sales increases at all of his 19 restaurants and the larger gross profits on many of the entrées as well as how large the dessert business had become at all of his restaurants, instead of a additional consulting contract Mr. Martin made me general manager as well as giving me a percentage of the business.
It did help that I married his daughter.
© 2017 Albert Zimbler
Albert Zimbler is a 92-year-old author of six humor short story books on Amazon of which MORE DATING AND MATING SECRETS OF SENIORS AND OTHER HUMOR SHORT STORIES is the latest. He also teaches senior improv.