Client Spotlight: Bill Tobin of Tiki’s Grill & Bar

Meet Bill Tobin, managing partner/CEO/owner, of Tiki’s Grill & Bar in Hawaii. After paying his way through college with the GI bill and bartending, he got a job in construction management but found he missed the restaurant industry. From there he went into the Hard Rock Cafe’s management training program and worked with a local chain in Hawaii. In 2002, he decided to open his own restaurant, and the rest is history.
Venga: How is Tiki’s unique?

Bill: At the time we opened there were a lot of restaurants in Hawaii that were hotel restaurants for tourists, but I found that not many were giving a great restaurant experience. I wanted to create a restaurant that captured the indoor outdoor feel and gave the guest the true “Hawaii experience”. The goal was to create a restaurant that locals wanted to go to, but still fulfilled that tourist experience.

Venga: How do you handle and manage guest feedback? What sites do you look at to monitor guest feedback? Do you respond?

Bill: We try and watch the sites that are busy with guest feedback for us –  Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, Urbanspoon. We take it all as a way to learn from our guests as well as interact with them. We respond to all the negative reviews to try to reengage them and the five-star reviews just to say thank you. We think it encourages more 5 star reviews if people see this – they might want to respond as a way to interact with us as well.

Venga: How do you hire and retain exceptional staff? What tips do you have for someone having difficulty with training?

Bill: Our job is to try and weed through the applications because we do get a lot of applications. We try and weed out the people who we know are not going to stay for very long. We look at the signs: if they aren’t passionate about the industry or if they haven’t stayed at one job for very long. We do want people who are very passionate about working at a restaurant. We also want people who get along well with others.

Venga: What do you do to turn first time guests into regulars and how do you keep those regulars coming back?

Bill: We really focus on the guest experience whether it’s visitors to Hawaii or locals. We think “what can we do to get them in a 2nd or 3rd time?” We believe that this is about providing a delightful experience. It is important to not only meet expectations but also exceeds expectations. Not a lot of people expect food and service to be good in a tourist area, but we work hard to exceed these expectations.

Venga: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in your job currently?

Bill: My biggest challenge is consistently doing a great job day in and day out. We have to convince our staff – even though we’re usually busy and they generally make about the same tip everyday – that every guest and every plate of food is just as important as the last one we did. You have to put your best foot forward every single day. We have to treat everyone as individuals. Everyone who comes to our restaurant is an individual and wants to be treated as an individual.

Venga: What’s your favorite item on your menu?

Bill: There are so many delicious things and this answer changes on a weekly basis. Right now our Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi is my favorite.