First date anyone?

I went out to a new BBQ place with a friend. He is moving out of state and it was our last chance to catch up before he leaves. He had been there, but it was my first time. I asked the server for some help with the menu. His favorites, most popular etc. The server was terrific. Efficient, knowledgeable, friendly. Until he wasn't. 

It isn't what you think. He didn't drop off the food and abandon us. Quite the opposite. He wouldn't go away. He mistook our politeness to mean that we were friends. It was like a bad first date. It got too personal, too fast. Questions and stories and over-solicitousness. 

Understand I know he meant well. And with myself being in the business I can be a bit chatty as well. But that point was breezed past before my food was even eaten.

The measurement of personal service is that it is about the person you are serving. Pay attention to them and what they want. It is about their needs, their wants. Plainly put, it's about them not you. Always. 

Pay attention to what cues they give you. Verbal and non-verbal. Listen and respond accordingly. It doesn't matter if you want to take the order now, if there are contracts on the table, walk away. Some cues are more subtle. But people always tell you what they need. 

And I needed to spend time with my friend. Which I finally got. And some great BBQ. And I will go back. Alone, when I need someone to chat with. 






The answer is NO.

I have heard every reason why Owners, managers even server think that they don't need to be trained in responsible service. Head shaking, the twists and turns that people will tell themselves.

Trevor Estelle, HCI’s V.P. of Sales & Marketing recently wrote a terrific article about all the objections people use. This was first printed in the TIPS newsletter. I"m reprinting it here because I think it's important to do the right thing. So let's bust some myths right now.

"Over the past 12 years I have come across many objections for why a corporation, owner, or manager fails to certify their employees in TIPS. None of them have any merit, but I thought I would share my list of the most frequently used excuses for why establishments don’t use TIPS. I have also included my own commentary.

I don’t need TIPS.

My staff consists of seasoned veterans in the hospitality industry and they already know all there is to know about responsible service. I have yet to meet a certified TIPS participant that didn’t tell me at least one skill or piece of new information that he or she took away from a TIPS session.

Alcohol accounts for less than 10% of my establishment’s overall sales. TIPS training isn’t necessary.

Establishments that have limited alcohol sales or a BYOB policy usually lack experience on how to handle difficult alcohol-related situations and lack knowledge of alcohol laws and regulations. They need TIPS just as much, if not more, as other licensed establishments.

We have our own in-house alcohol server training.

I often hear this one from very large chain establishments. It might seem easier to create an in-house training program, but the TIPS program has been evaluated and proven effective by third-party studies. Will an in-house program hold up in court? Is the program approved by state agencies? Is it proven effective?

My town, county, city, or state doesn’t require alcohol server training.

While more and more jurisdictions are mandating alcohol server training, most still do not. Regardless, establishments are expected to make reasonable efforts to prevent intoxication, underage sales, and drunk driving. In addition, establishments should always protect their assets and be able to provide examples of how they are part of the solution, not to mention the insurance premium discounts, improved customer service, and reduced penalties that may come with training your staff in TIPS.

My establishment uses a different alcohol server training program.

What program? In most cases, the establishment is either using a fly-by-night online provider or a local liquor law course. Neither should be confused with quality training. While TIPS does have some national competitors, none of them are able to provide the support, service, and effective programs that TIPS offers.

It isn’t my responsibility if an individual is intoxicated in my establishment. People need to be responsible for themselves.

Believe it or not, we still hear this one.

I already use TIPS (when, in fact, you DO NOT use TIPS).

Since we keep permanent records of all certification credentials, you can’t get away with saying that you use our program when really you don’t. You would be surprised at how often we run into this situation.

I’ve never been sued, nor do I have any violations. I will use TIPS only if I get into trouble.

A lot of TIPS training is court ordered or a reaction to a recent violation. If it has reached this point, you are already TOO LATE!

I plan to get my staff certified soon.

I honestly believe that they have good intentions, but there is no time like the present, especially when that underage compliance check or difficult refusal situation could occur any day or night.

I don’t have the time or money to get my staff certified in the TIPS program.

Okay, so you know the right thing to do, yet you simply can’t invest in protecting your community and establishment. This is never a good reason and courts WILL close your doors or suspend your liquor license when you sell or serve alcohol.If funding TIPS training is truly a problem, go to your local alcohol wholesaler, community prevention group, or police department. They usually have access to resources that can assist you.

I have heard many more excuses for why establishments don’t certify their employees in TIPS. Visit our website ( to read case studies and success stories, and to get more information about our different programs and the benefits of TIPS. ATTENTION Independent TIPS Trainers: Please share some of the excuses you hear and how you overcome them. You can email them to me at estellet@gettips"

How bendy are you?

There is an often overlooked quality that is necessary for a manager to have or acquire. 


"Managers are responsible for establishing the tempo and highest standards of a business, enabling the restaurant to generate a profit."

Such a simple elegant sentence and yet so hard to execute. Your manager is the best version of you when you aren't there. They will do a constant act of balancing all types of personalities, needs, and objectives, every single day. Managing can be like herding cats sometimes. You get one, and the other zooms off. So you grab that one and lose the third one. And one always has an attitude.

To keep all that is required, moving in the right direction, they must have a backbone, grit, and compassion. For to lead by fear isn't leading at all. And leading to be liked is managing for the lowest common denominator. Telling people what to do, and to do things they don't want to, requires a firm yet compassionate hand. Being a manager is to know you will not always be popular, and being committed to the best version of the restaurant beyond that.

They are the rudder on the boat as it moves through the water. 

7 easy steps to Responsible serving that won't cost you a dime.

7 Easy Steps to a Responsible Alcohol Service Plan

Like most things in life, intention only gets you so far. At some point you have to execute. Like Nike says, just do it. Put your money where your mouth is. It won't cost you a dime.


Here’s how you do it:

  1. Make a commitment to creating a culture of responsible alcohol service. Your staff looks to you to set the values and environment of the restaurant.
  2. Make it clear to your staff what you expect in the way of service. Make sure to have written policies, procedures and standards posted and part of the training package. Then they know what is expected of them.
  3. Walk the walk. Talk the talk. Put your money where your mouth is. Take the alcohol training with them. Or at least show up at the class. And put up a House Policy that if there are not certified they won’t be on the schedule within a reasonable amount of time from the offered class. It shows you take this seriously.
  4. Make certain your House Policy outlines the steps to be taken in preventing and refusing service to an intoxication guest. The House Policy should show who should be notified before and after, the patron has been refused service then, post that in the bar and service areas. Include this in the training packets also.
  5. The staff will look to you as a role model. They will come to you for guidance in difficult situations and need your support. Guide them and then back up their decision when they decide to stop service to any guest they feel is intoxicated. This will show that you respect and support their efforts.
  6. The single most important component to having a culture of responsible service of alcohol is this: Back up your staff. When they refuse to serve a customer, support their decision both verbally and physically. Verbal support is telling them that they are right to do it. Physical support is that you go with them and be within hollering distance if they need you.
  7. Don’t make exceptions. Exceptions such as  they can’t cut off your friends, family or regulars. Those situations require a delicate touch. The House Policy should clarify that if they are unsure or hesitant to let a manager handle the patron. If you start to make exceptions it will weaken the staff’s trust in the management.

Follow these simple steps and you will not only have a culture of responsible service, but a more cohesive staff. The staff will learn they have the ability to handle sensitive situations, make money and have the respect of the management while doing it.

Now it's your turn,  tell me what worries you the most about having the staff serve responsibly. No concern to small! Leave your biggest worry in the comments below

What time is it?

Have you heard the expression, " Being on time is 10 minutes late."?

Do you slide into work at exactly the appointed time? Maybe a few minutes late. Meh, it's just 5, 10 minutes right?

Except I'm waiting. Waiting to make sure you are showing up. Waiting to start my side work. Waiting for you to punch in so I can tell you what is going on with the table that just sat down in your section. Waiting for you to read the features for the night, watching the tables continuing to stream in, as you get ready to get on the floor.

It's not about the 10 minutes. It's about respecting other's time. It's about being a professional. Yes, I know you don't get paid enough but does showing up late help that? 



Give me a little something, something.

I once was on the opening staff at a premier high-end restaurant.They touted it as the biggest restaurant opening in 10 years in the city. High pressure, lots of eyeballs watching your every move. Lots of P.R. Even some national mentions. The owner's previous restaurant was being resurrected, with new partners. Customers had high expectations. They wanted it to match their memories.

At the end of every day of training, the GM would update us and take questions. One day the question was asked if we would be honoring the partner's loyalty program. The GM was silent. He took a deep breath and said something I have never forgotten.

" You never discount value."

He went on to explain that if you compete on price as a way to win loyalty, you will always will. If you give value, people will give loyalty. You won't have to buy it.

He then, gave us the task, for the next morning, to all 50 of us, to find a way to add something to the customer's experience that was free or cost under $ 10.

Mine was if the customer mentioned how they liked the coffee, to give them a small scoop of our coffee. a special blend from Hawaii, 49 suggestions later, you would have some pretty valued customers and a heck of a lot of loyalty. 

A little something is really a little bit of paying attention. A little swag goes a long way. 

What colour is your money?

“Everybody's money is green.” My dad used to say.

There is a great deal of chatter nowadays about customers. How stupid, how frustrating or what crazy request they had. We have all seen those “10 things NOT to do in a bar” lists. Or the posts on social media about what customer did to a server.


Everybody’s money is green.


Let that sink in. What that really means.

It means that everyone is paying. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, common decency and a minimum of kindness. Everyone who walks through the doors of your establishment is a paying or potential paying customer. Treat them that way.

Yes, this does not mean that someone is allowed to be verbally or physically abusive. That is what you get managers for.

What it does mean is that instead of thinking about what you are getting out of this. Try thinking what you are adding to everyone’s experience.

Everybody’s money is green.

Everyone has money to give you. What are you giving them?

Are you worth it?

I recently got a No thanks to an sales call for TIPS. 

Hey, it happens. What disappointed me about this particular No,was that I really felt like TIPS training would have been helpful for the inexperienced staff. When I drilled down with my contact as to why, what the true answered surprised me. Surprised me in the lack of vision. The owner didn't want to do it because it was $100 over his budget. $100. Mmmmmm. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I respect a budget. Hell, I have one myself! I get that not everyone has the money to do everything that they want,when they want it.

But, what about money to do the things that are the right thing to do. Long term vision, that owner would have recouped that $100 and more in the insurance discount. Invested in a responsible staff. Long term vision could save millions in god-forbid-a-lawsuit.

$100 or a priceless piece of mind? Save a life by having a responsible well trained staff member make a better decision. much is a $100 worth to you?