Casual Dining vs. Careless Service: A G-Chat with Service Coach Brooke Burton

Service coach Brooke Burton also writes the popular Food Woolf blog.


Brooke Burton is a Los Angeles-based service coach, with more than 20 years’ restaurant experience, who specializes in diner retention. Restaurant clients include Luna ParkSotto, and The Spice Table, We G-chatted recently regarding Alan Richman’s recent remarks about how the level of service at very hip restaurants seems to be slipping.

me: Hi Brooke!

Brooke: Hi Caroline. It’s an honor to speak with you today about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart!

me: So, you’ve heard about the kerfuffle that restaurant critic Alan Richman had at  a restaurant in New York recently that spawned an interview with Grub Street in which he accuses some unnamed-but-presumably-hip NYC restaurants of taking casual dining a bridge too far by providing careless service. I’ve seen some of this, but, thankfully, not at restaurants on OpenTable. Are you seeing any of that on the West Coast?

Brooke: Oh, absolutely. Here’s the thing — I think a lot of restaurant owners who open casual restaurants assume that giving great service in a casual way is easy. But the thing is, hospitality is an EXTREMELY difficult thing to do. No matter how casual the concept. Giving great service is an art form.

me: So, I have some theories as to the root of the problem. One is that maybe restaurant owners are hiring people who are interesting and bright, but they do not have affinity for hospitality. So, even if they fit the vibe of a restaurant, they could lack the warmth and hop-to-it-tiveness that makes great servers?

Brooke: Maybe. Hiring is key to the success of any business. But, it’s up to the owners to define what great service is, create clear expectations, and teach their staff the tools they need to give great service. Hospitality may come naturally in some, but it takes constant nurturing to grow it.

me: It’s really a customer service job at its core…

Brooke: Removing your ego — as a business practice — is not an easy concept for anyone to do.

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On Our Plate This Week: Restaurant Week Extensions; SXSW Panel Picker; Diners’ Choice Winners for Best Late Night Restaurants; Bloggers Without Borders

Another look at the Sunnyside Pizza from Diners' Choice Award winner Bar Cento.

Happenings on and around OpenTable this week…

* Dallas-Fort Worth KRLD Restaurant Week and Washington D.C. Restaurant Week have each been extended.

* Don’t miss your chance to do good while dining out in Houston during Houston Restaurant Weeks, which runs through August 31st. The restaurants have pledged to donate $5 per Houston Restaurant Weeks dinner sold, and $3 per Houston Restaurant Weeks lunch sold to the Houston Food Bank

* We’re still celebrating the winners of the 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for the top 50 restaurants for late night dining. Plus, check out a look at the most popular late night dishes at Red Medicine, The Drawing Room, and Bar Cento.

* Our friends at Bloggers Without Borders are raising money for food blogger Jennifer Perillo and her daughters after the sudden loss of Jennifer’s beloved husband Mikey. Bid on amazing food and cooking-related items to help this family prepare for a future they never imagined they’d face.

* Vote for OpenTable’s own mobile guru Scott Jampol to share his wisdom at SXSW in 2012. You have to register, but it’s free and it’s fast. Give a thumbs up at SXSW PanelPicker now!

* What type of diner are you? Take our quick quiz to find out!

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