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Paying attention to good (and bad) service

Everybody's a critic at Metrazur.

Problem: Complacent staff needs to become motivated to deliver better service.

Solution: Staffers write reviews of restaurants they visit.

Eight years at the same job can turn even the most motivated and passionate employee into a reluctant sloth. That was the problem that faced Michael Hojlo, the 25-year old general manager of Metrazur, Charlie Palmer’s modern American restaurant located on the mezzanine above the Main Concourse of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. “A lot of my staff has been here for eight years, and others for at least two,” he explains. “They’d reached a level of complacency. They were not trying to improve and they were letting things slack.”

To spice things up, he began reading restaurant reviews pre-shift, hoping to motivate his staff and inspire involvement in the restaurant world. “I was hoping to get them into the reviews and looking at trends and which direction things were going,” says Hojlo. But noticing their eyes start to glaze over one week, he decided he’d throw a wrench in the routine and assigned them the task of dining out and writing a review of their experience. He gave them a month to complete the review and offered a nice carrot as a prize—dinner for two at Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s elegant Upper East Side restaurant.  

His plan worked. Every one of his staff—waiters, bartenders and cocktail servers—wrote a review for the competition, and the experience of becoming a critical diner improved their service performance. He plans on holding the competition again.

“When they wrote their articles they started paying more attention to what was happening in the restaurant and they stopped letting things slide,” says Hojlo. “When you’re a server, you forget how people feel when they sit down to dine. I think when you get the opportunity to look at it from the other side, the things you let slide don’t slide anymore. Like those two minutes when you let people just sit there and wait you may have let slide. But not anymore.

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