The key to giving great customer service is focus.

As a short, balding middle aged man I don’t expect wait staff to hang around to chat with me, but I don’t want to be ignored. Don’t feel sorry for me this doesn’t happen often, but when it does I make my voice heard to management. Likewise when a server shines I like to speak up as well. All too often people only speak up to complain about service.

I was in New York City this past week and it was cold and windy and snowing. Perhaps you saw the news. To take the chill off I stopped into Junior’s in Time Square for some Matzoh Ball Soup.
Funny Speaker at Junior'sI sat at the counter bypassing the wait, ordered my soup and a Manhattan. Often these days with younger bartenders I have to explain how I like the drink prepared. I was pleasantly surprised when the twenty-something bartender, Asif, nodded with approval at my choice and asked me if like bitters? In a day where anything served in a cocktail glass in considered a martini it was refreshing to know the art of bar tending is not totally lost. Asif also stirred the dink instead of shaking the crap out of it. It was delicious! I was off to Sardi’s to meet some friends.

The following night I stopped back in to Junior’s for some of their World Famous Cheese Cake.  Asif was there but with other customers. I order the cheesecake from another person behind the counter and added a hot chocolate with a shot of Hennessy VS. Asif walked by at this point and said, “What, no Manhattan?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many people sit at that counter on any given night or how many orders are taken. I might have been remembered or looked familiar but I wouldn’t have expected a bartender to remember what I ordered after only one visit. Although Asif didn’t “hang” with me (there were 2 very attractive women sitting next to me) he remembered what I had ordered because he was focused on his customers.

Saif is my SEE ™ (Service Exceeding Expectations) winner for the Month of February. Even if Junior’s didn’t have such great cheesecake I would go back. Below is a video I did for Junior’s in July of 2010.

Someone had dropped the ball, but Daniel scooped it up and saved the day with laser-like focus on my needs.

Funny Speaker loves pizza

People + Pizza = Good Times

I’d planned a get together to celebrate 20 years of producing interactive mysteries in Atlanta.  The event was to take place following the last murder mystery Bacchus Productions was producing. I invited over 30 people to attend the late night party and had booked a private room. Or so I thought.

When I arrived at the Buckhead Pizza Company, several cast members from days gone by were already there catching up at the bar. I asked the bartender about the private room and she contacted the manager. There was a problem. A group of 15 people were still using that room. Daniel, the general manager, told me they were expecting us but I wasn’t in the books for the private room. I do not take bad news well and started to fume.

Smelling smoke, Daniel focused on the problem and jumped into action. There was an outside space (covered and heated as it was mid-December) that would hold up to 60 people. It would give us more room and would actually be better for us. If I’d give him 10 minutes he would set the space and crank up the heaters. My expectations were not high but what could I do?

Daniel, Fibi our server and several other staff members went about setting the room. I had a double Oban (14 yr old single malt) while cast members calmed me down .

Within 10 minutes the space was ready for us and our group that was growing moved into the back space.

A shout out to Daniel Bridges, Fibi and the other staff members of  the Buckhead Pizza Company who tuned what could have been a disaster (in my head) into an amazing night that I will remember for years to come. Daniel is my SEE™ (Service Exceeding Expectations) Winner for the month of December.

Funny Speaker with BMT

20 years of producing mysteries in Atlanta – A partial representation of cast members.

There is not a better place to get together with a large group of friends and family than a good pizzeria serving cold beer (or in my case Oban single malt scotch)

Food Isn’t Everything

If a restaurant  has mediocre food but great customer service I will return. If you’ve read my earlier posts or saw my video on The Classic Martini, you know I’m a little old fashion. Today I was once again reminded of how old I’m getting. Do you know how to make a Perfect Rob Roy. Most people, including bartenders don’t. A close friend of mine passed away last week and he would occasionally order a perfect Rob Roy. I’m not sure if he really liked the drink or would order it just to see the blank expression on the face of the person taking the order. So for the last week I’ve been ordering the drink to honor his memory. Turns out I like it. Here’s the recipe:
In a cocktail shaker add ice and
2 ounces Scotch
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes of bitters
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass or over ice and garnish with a lemon peel.

I stopped into a pizza place that had a bar and thought I’d get a pizza and a perfect Rob Roy. I didn’t really expect the bartender to known what a perfect Rob Roy was but I ordered one expecting to explain how to make it. What I didn’t expect was for the bar not to stock dry vermouth. “You don’t make martinis?” “Sure,” says the bartender, “but no one asks for vermouth. We have sweet vermouth.” I ordered a beer and a pizza to go.

Great Customer Service


Just as I was thinking that I’d never returned to this place the bartender returned and asked me to explain once again how to make the perfect Rob Roy.  He had gone to the bar next door and had returned with some dry vermouth in a rocks glass. Now THAT’S customer service. I doubt if this one location pizza joint had extensive training but this kind of service is exceptional and is not easily taught. It comes from within. It was part of this bartender’s upbringing. Kudos to the person who had the good sense to recognize this person’s willingness to go the extra mile.

Ethan is my SEE™ (Service Exceeding Expectations) Winner for the month of September. Thank you Ethan, thank you for making my day. And I’ll be back for mediocre pizza and great service.

How do you grab market share in a down economy? Easy, “WOW” your customers.

When times are tough, one of the first things people cut back on is eating out. You’re competing with the same number of restaurants for a shrinking number of diners. Your competitive advantage is in the service you provide. The “customer experience” is more important than ever.

Creating a great customer experience is easy if you’ve embraced the Bada-Bing Philosophy. This is my own simple philosophy for providing great service. It’s like the Fish Philosophy but without the smell of dead mackerel.  The Bada-Bing incorporates one maxim, 2 steps and 3 simple tools.

THE MAXIM: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” Now, I’m not saying, “If you’re not having fun, don’t do it,” because that’s quitting. I’m saying “find a way to make it fun”. No matter how boring or distasteful a task may be, there is always a way to make it more Fun. The 7 Dwarfs knew that; they whistled while they worked – even Grumpy.  But I understand he was heavily medicated. I’m not judging.

To make slinging omelets fun, one of the things I used to do when I was the only cook at the Elephant & Castle in the Village was to do a Play-by-Play.  You’ve done it; you take some mundane or repetitive activity and you raise it to the level of epic proportions. When I looked up and saw a long row of dupes, I wasn’t stressed; it became an Olympic event – and I did the Play-by-Play.

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli worked here in 1979

The Elephant & Castle in Greenwich Village

“Vinny Verelli is now the U.S.’s last chance to get the gold medal. He takes a deep breath and … there’s the bell!  He quickly surveys the slips of paper hanging in front of him, scanning for any burgers hidden among the omelets. There’s one, there’s another. With blinding speed he’s got the two patties on the grill and turns his attention to the stove. Look at him go.”  This would go on and on until the tickets were whittled down to size. This was something I would do to keep a positive attitude, to manage the negative effects that can turn overworked into overstressed.

Of course having fun at work is a direct relation to management. If the overall environment is oppressive, it’s more difficult to have fun. Having fun is an attitude that can and should be taught and encouraged.

We can’t control all the things that happen to us, but we can control how we react to them. We hear that all the time. “We choose our attitude.”  It’s such a cliché. But it’s true. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I say make up your mind to be happy; make up your mind to have Fun.

The following quote is one of my favorites and has become an affirmation for how I approach the day: 
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”  Groucho Marx

In my next post we’ll look at the 2 steps in the Bada-Bing.

Vinny Verelli is actually character actor Jonathan Schwartz with over 40 years of professional experience. Although he was a “frustrated” actor, he spent 15 years working in restaurants giving 100% and having fun. Vinny is a humorous motivational speaker and conference host. Vinny also has fun making cooking videos and Blogging at CookingWithVinny.com.

* When I worked at the Elephant & Castle in the late 70’s, early 80’s, they were known for omelets: 23 varieties. Today there are only 6 omelets on the menu.  The kitchen was so tiny I could flip burgers with one hand while flipping an omelet with the other.

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli's blog 1011

Muammar Gaddafi Duck

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi entered the Libyan military academy in 1961, and graduated in 1966. Three short years later, he took over the government of Libya in a bloodless coup d’état.

At the time Gaddafi ceased power he was only a lieutenant. As dictator he made himself a Col. Which begs the question, during his 42 years as a dictator, why didn’t he make himself a General? And it’s my guess that he won’t be promoted in the after life.

Posted by Vinny Verelli
If You’re Not Having Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong. 

Can you name the 1976 film that this phrase comes from? That’s right, it’s Network. Last night I watched the movie again and today went to YouTube and sure enough, you can watch the best scenes on line.

I’m certainly not in the top one percent of the wage earners, so that makes me a part of the 99%.  I’m not occupying anything at the moment, but I do find myself wondering, where’s it’s all going?  Maybe nowhere. Links to my 2 favorite scenes from Network are posted below. All the stuff that Peter Finch is mad as hell about are the same things that are plaguing us today, the same things we’re all mad as hell about today, 35 years later. And then the speech that spews forth from Ned Beatty to Peter Finch is AMAZING.

“I’m Mad as Hell…”

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature Mr. Beale…”

After watching Ned Beatty’s … “primal forces of nature speech,” I’m thinking the Occupiers are going to need a bigger boat.

The United States Postal Service announced Monday September 26 that it would for the first time be putting people who are still alive on postage stamps.  Had they listened to me in 2005 the USPS may not have been in such bad shape today. Here’s a clip from my 2005 keynote in Washington DC.  It’s obvious that some of my references are dated but then again, some people have a way of staying in the spotlight.

The USPS has taken all sorts of flack from all sorts of people for a long time. Yes, they don’t have the best business model and they loose billions every year, but there closest competitor delivers a letter for you for $16. I don’t care how efficient you are and how much you cut waste and workers benefits, you can’t make a lot of money delivery mail at 44¢ a letter.

Give your next event a real shot in the arm. With Vinny’s no-nonsense approach to motivation you can get motivated and still make lunch by one. http://motivatethis.net