This is the first of a monthly series focused on restaurant operators. We learn about their day-to-day, tips of the trade, and even struggles we can all relate to in this crazy industry of ours.
Meet Anthony Issa who spends his days overseeing Fig & Olive Chicago’s VIP and guest relations. After a stint in customer service, Anthony decided to follow another passion and go to pastry school. When working in a hotel kitchen, Anthony realized he missed interacting with guests and went back to school for food & beverage management. He worked his way to front of house and came on as part of the opening team for Fig & Olive Chicago.
Venga: What’s your role at Fig & Olive?
Anthony: I’m the VIP host and also handle our guest relations. A typical day involves running the host stand and door, updating our guest relations log, and reviewing and responding to all our feedback.
Venga: How do you handle dissatisfied guests?
Anthony: I start every morning by checking my Venga daily feedback email, which consolidates responses to surveys we send out as well as reviews from OpenTable, Yelp, etc. I respond to every review we get – negative or positive. The main part of our guest relations log is reviews so next I’ll update the log with where the guest sat, who their server was, who the chef on duty was, the date of their review, the date I reached out, etc. We’re big on guest recovery and try to get all of our guests to come back in. I’ll put a note in OpenTable if a dissatisfied guest books another reservation so the server will know to send out a comp. If a recovered guest comes back, I’ll update the log. Comps aren’t just for recovery guests and VIPs though – if someone leaves us a glowing 5-star review, we’ll acknowledge that the next time they come in.
Venga: How do you track and acknowledge VIPs?
Anthony: We look at number of visits to determine VIPs. We always take into account their seating preferences and servers they like. We keep diligent notes in OpenTable on their preferences. We’ve started a new system where our VIPs get a chit and the servers will write down what the guest liked and gives it to the host to add to OpenTable at the end of the night. We also track their preferences and spending habits automatically through Venga, which prints this info for our servers on the chits.
Venga: How do you run your preshift meetings?
Anthony: We always talk about reviews in our preshift and acknowledge if servers or the kitchen have done a great job. The managers go over reservations coming and especially focus on our VIP tables. A chef will go over food and usually has a tasting calendar with wine pairings, allergies and key ingredients.
Venga: How does guest management differ at Fig & Olive versus other places you’ve worked?
Anthony: A lot of places only reach out to bad reviews, but it’s pretty rare to also respond to positive reviews. We’re also very detailed in documenting guest feedback and others don’t always keep track of all of that – at least not to our extent.
Venga: Favorite restaurant to eat at besides your own?
Anthony: Mon Ami Gabi by Lettuce Entertain You. They’re always consistent, and I know I’m going to get the same dish every time.