Friday, May 10, 2013

World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing, Interview -- 

Author Steve DiGioia has been in the hotel and restaurant business, in one manner or another, for 25+ years. From booking agent to catering sales manager, to restaurant director and director of banquets, he has seen some of the best and worst at their trade. Known as “the ops guy” during his tenure at Hilton Hotels, Steve has redefined the operational and service standards for multiple food and beverage departments for some of the best names in the industry. Using a hands-on approach, he has developed multiple training programs and personally mentored countless employees that have successfully moved on to supervisor and senior management positions – which he shares in the book: Earn More Tips on Your Very Next Shift. Today we have the honor of dipping into Steve’s experiences as a writer in the interview below.

Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?

A: Writing itself doesn’t help me make a difference but I hope what I write about does.  We have lost the ability and desire to provide great customer service to the very same people that want to give us their hard earned money.  In many businesses, the mindset is that we don’t owe the customer more than just to pass the product we sell over the counter and take their money.  Is that what our society has turned into?

I don’t believe that was done in our grandparent’s days.  Those were the times when every food market had a person that bagged your groceries and even walked them out to your car.  Those were the days when the store clerk knew your name and treated you as if you were a part of his/her family.  Not because they had to but because the shop owner or the clerks themselves wanted to make sure you left their business feeling special.

I hope that the topics I use in this book can help all service people, especially waiters, get back to making their customer, their guest, feel special.  This is what grows a business and makes lasting customers.

Q: What was your path to publication?

A: Since this was my first book I had no experience or knowledge about the process of getting published.  Plus I didn’t have any start-up capital so I decided to self publish my book, and will do so in the future.  I spent the next 3 weeks on the computer learning all I can about self publishing and print of demand companies and purchased what I thought was the best book to learn from.   

I knew that Amazon was the best online retailer to have my book so that was where my focus was.  Three weeks to write the book and another 3 weeks to get it published was a pretty quick turnaround for I book I believe.

Q: What do you do when you are not writing?

A: I am still active in the business and work long hours so my spare time is limited.  I try to spend all my time with my wife and 2 teenage daughters.  They are my world and this is where I want to be.  I love to garden and do my best to bring as many flowers and to life around the house.

Q: What gave you the idea (inspiration) for this book?

A: This book came very unexpected.  As part of my usual duties as a Director of Banquets for 4-season resort property, I am also responsible for developing all resort-wide standards and practices for the banquet departments of our other 5 resorts. Back in December 2012, I was asked to train a group of newly hired waiters for one of our sister properties. 

This training was to be different since it was geared toward the restaurant a la cart servers & bartenders as opposed to my usual banquet servers.  I wanted them to understand what it takes to provide a lasting memory of service for all the guests that enter the building.  They needed to see what makes a guest really enjoy their stay with us, what makes them want to come back again and again.  Good food and atmosphere can only go so far if the service is terrible and your needs are not taken care of.

The training was so well received that I expanded on these tactics and started to retrain my own staff of over 50 employees, based on them.  I then put these tips into a monthly newsletter that I issued in January of this year.  I had so much information that I wrote the next 5 issues as well, right away.  Then at least 3-4 days each week we discussed these service tips prior to the start of their shifts.

I was so happy to hear that on the very first day of this “pre-shift training”, one of my waiters got one of the largest tips he ever received.  And this was just because he properly introduced himself to his guests at the start of the evening & let them know that it was his job to take care of them.  He got such a kick out of his guests as they continually called him by name and joked with him all night.  It made for an enjoyable evening for all.

Well that was the spark that started my idea for this book.  The only difference is that I decided to take the route of “WIIFM”, “what’s in it for me”. 

You see - if the waiters see that they can benefit from my training tips by making bigger tips, then they are more likely to follow them and actually put them to work.  Ultimately the guest will benefit as well.  They must realize that only by making your guests feel special, feel as if THEIR enjoyment is your primary concern, will they make the big tips.   All else is not important.

Q: What’s the best advice you were given about writing?

A: My best advice would be to just do it.  If you are passionate about what you do it’s important to put your passion to paper.  Even if you are an expert in some field or endeavor that does not help anyone else unless you can get that word out to the masses.

Most people are not in a position to hold training classes or workshops where your knowledge can be taught, so what is the other option?  Write a book.  So what if it only sells 100 copies over a 10-year span? 100 more people that learned about your passion and most likely have put some of your knowledge into their own field.  We can only imagine how many people they in turn have taught others based on your work.

Q: What is your writer life philosophy?

A: The following quote from: Setting the Table, written by award winning NY restaurateur Danny Meyer sums it up best:

“The excellence reflex is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right or to improve something that could be better.  The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice.

The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can’t train for.  Either it’s there or it isn’t.”

WOW, it doesn’t get any better than that!  I try living based on that quote.

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