The Opposite of Fail Whale — Great Service

The Opposite of Fail Whale

Ok, so I won’t deny that blogging weekly is harder than I thought. This is especially true during short weeks and as we work tirelessly to bring AveroBuzz up. At our current pace we will be up by the middle of February (are you listening, Matt Franklin?). Not only will we be back, but we will also have a few new bells and whistles while removing some features that we feel could use some improvements. What an exciting and busy time but I still want to avoid the blogging #failwhale going forward.

Heading into last weekend, I was inspired by Tammy Boatright. She is one of our industry’s greatest treasures and a true thought leader and innovator. In her VingDirect Facebook Group she asked what seemed like an easy question:

Sadly there were not a lot of answers. As I was rushing to the car, I typed on my iPhone: Palmaz, Kenzo and Sinegal. I’m confident I could come up with more but decided that if I have to think about it, they are not top of mind. But to me, the question became what is amazing service. A few weeks ago I blogged on the Avero website about the perfect combination of service and technology. Moreover, I was able to use a real life example from SingleThread Farms. One of the reasons last week was so hectic is because it was not only a short week but also our planned trip to Healdsburg for our “staycation” at the Singlethread Inn. On Friday night we had dinner reservations at Valette, on Saturday we planned a wine tasting at Banshee Wines and lunch at Bravas, and a climactic dinner at Singlethread. I think this topic followed me (as well as the guilt for missing my last week’s blog post) and I took mental notes. I am not a food/wine/service critic, and this blog is not meant to be a reflection of that. I can say this, every single place excelled at service and the food and wine at every location was amazing. I can’t recommend all of them enough and for different reasons. But what I can say is that here are a few things that stood out:

Attention to detail is essential — SingleThread farms is all about the detail. From the amazing fixtures to the chocolates, to the Pliny the Elder in the room fridge, everything is detailed out. The item I noticed most on the chef’s gear was not their knives but their tweezers.

That Cured Foie Gras was out of this world.

Personalization — At SingleThread they made a point to understand us, why we were coming to the restaurant/inn, our food preferences, our passions, etc. That helped them tailor a bit of our stay with small nuances that made us truly appreciate the experience. Whether it was excluding uni from my wife’s selection of entrees to trying to help facilitate, winery visits were thoughtful touches. Both Zach’s and Kyle’s acknowledgment of my previous Avero blog post were incredibly kind.

By the same token, I have been fortunate enough to sit on the Board of Advisors for the Harvest Summit with Dustin Valette. I’ve had the chance to see him a few times but only in large groups and not one on one. But walking by the kitchen, Dustin made a focused effort to say hello. I can tell you the food was great but that small touch of acknowledging my wife and me made me a customer for life. Valette is on my permanent recommendations for Healdsburg dining.

Winning is a perfect blend of understanding the audience and engagement — At Banshee and Bravas they balanced the art of engaging with us and understanding when we wanted to speak with them and get advice and when we wanted just to be alone and enjoy each other’s company. It required them to pay close attention to us (and other guests) and when they sensed key cues, help us in our food/wine journey. Too much would have ruined it, too little and we would have felt ignored.

The smallest things can make someone feel special — Just like Dustin taking time from a very, very busy kitchen to say hello or wave across the street while carrying a leg of house cured prosciutto during one of the worst storms in five years, SingleThread made similar efforts. During dinner, Kyle and Katina made a point to come out and personally talk to each and every table. Kyle mentioned that it was him that personally DM’d with me via Twitter (#respect) and when dinner was finished they delivered our menu, delicately wrapped, with a beautiful gift hidden in the paper flower. I won’t ruin the surprise but needless to say we were delighted by both gestures.

You don’t choose where the customer talks with you, they do — I went back to Foursquare and checked in at every location (sadly Foursquare still needs to fix business to consumer engagement) and cross-posted, pictures on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to flag the businesses that we loved the most. Both SingleThread and Valette made a point to talk back to me on social media.

It’s approaching midnight and I feel this list is still not complete. This will require many, many more blog posts and I’m still studying the recipe for perfect service. If you have any thoughts, please share in the comments. Most importantly I am looking for more hospitality companies that demonstrate areas of excellence in service. That includes wineries, restaurants and hotels. If you have an example, please let me know.

By the way, if you want to see some of food porn from last Saturday’s dinner I uploaded some of the pictures to Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/32349869@N00/albums/72157675411051423

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