Service March 14, 2019

I Never Left The Hospitality Industry

“In time of crisis and confusion, of opportunity and openings, success starts with identifying and staying steadfastly loyal to your guest. And real hospitality – the kind that makes a lasting impact – calls for an unrelenting focus on the guest,” – Stephen J. Cloobeck, Checking In.


Once upon a time, I found myself in California’s Bay Area after coming to the brutal realization that one simply could not remain in Santa Barbara after completing school just to avail of the endless beach days and State Street commodities. Unless that one, was of the likes of Oprah.

But what would a Southern Californian like myself DO, in the big, bad city?! I’d be lying if I said my journey to real estate was linear but as Stephen J. Cloobeck – entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and former founder and CEO of Diamond Resort International – reminds us in his book Checking In, “…the course to success never follows a straight line.”

The first night I made hundreds of dollars serving mediocre clam chowder and questionable “fresh” Catches of the Day at a tourist trap located right on Stearns Wharf, I knew that I thrived in hospitality. I was able to balance – figuratively and literally – as well as, if not better than, the seasoned servers almost immediately upon hire. I juggled the bigger sections, raked up the larger sales, and did it almost always with a pep in my step and a smile on my face.

Now if you’ve never served tables, you’re probably thinking, “how hard can it be?” If you have had the pleasure of scraping your tips in the form of coins off of a Shirley Temple stained dinner menu, then you know the answer; pretty damn hard. The act of writing down an order, getting it to the kitchen, and delivering it to your table (warm and correctly) is not hard  – but being at the mercy of the moods and dispositions of strangers expecting a service, an experience, with sometimes little or no “Thanks” is hard.

While I wasn’t the most gregarious or knowledgeable server per se, I managed to position myself as a leader at just about every one of my restaurants, by never forgetting one thing; people just want to feel taken care of. Period. Don’t like this drink that you confidently ordered a minute ago? No problem, let me get you something you’ll enjoy. Your well-done burger looks like it walked itself to your plate ? I am so sorry, let me re-fire that for you and, in the meantime, here are some complimentary nachos.

My job was to serve tables, the reason, was so as to provide enough of an enjoyable experience that would have them sitting back in my section week after week. Harnessing the “why” was the easiest and best thing I could have done for my future self and, ultimately, our real estate business.

Mr. Cloobeck – (have you opened that Amazon browser and ordered this book yet??) – reminds us that we’re all in hospitality. In an era where not “breeding, incorporating, or acclimatizing” the technological change is a sure way to almost guarantee you and your business sink before ever touching the water, that’s only one tool in your toolbox. The focus of your business must be on “…the end-users. On human beings. On people like us.”

The customer, guest, or client may be different, but in every industry the focus is the same – THEM. If there isn’t a more purpose-igniting thought than that!

I love sitting in front a client with my mouth shut and a pen in my hand listening to them tell me exactly what they want or need. Taking their order. I love going back to my laptop, phone, or office to find my client exactly what they just told me they needed. Getting the order to the kitchen. What I love most is walking them in to sign their final escrow papers, their ticket to their next chapter in life. Delivering the order.