When we come across someone in the restaurant business who really exemplifies hospitality, we just can’t resist highlighting their work. Recently, Venga caught up with Greg Sawin – the General Manager of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, Texas – who continues to prove how hospitality is his passion.
VENGA: What do you think distinguishes hospitality from just plain service?
GREG: You can get good food anywhere nowadays. Everything is so at our fingertips. So what makes my restaurant different is that we pride ourselves on being memory makers. We have regulars that will come in every year for their anniversary because of the way that we make them feel- in addition to a great meal. They come to us for a special evening out.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago I had a meal sent to the wrong table. First of all, I'm honest with my guests and let them know what happened and that it was a mistake. So instead of shying away from the problem, we sent them a round of drinks – we always want to do something extra. At the end of the night, they came and thanked me specifically for having such a great time and taking such great care of them.
I function with the guiding philosophy that you can take a bad mistake and make it an awesome experience overall, or you can take a bad mistake and make it worse.
VENGA: What is the best part of working in hospitality?
GREG: I have been in the business for over 21 years because it is one of the only businesses where you can build a product from start to finish. You build a welcoming environment, seat your guest, serve them an amazing meal and see their reaction. I can track the entire hospitality all the way through, seeing the successes of my work clearly.
I take my work as seriously as I take a gust staying at my home- like if it were your in-laws, what would you do? I would have clean sheets on the bed, extra towels in the bathroom, and food in the fridge. The same way I worry about someone enjoying their stay at my home, if I see someone seated in my restaurant but not eating their meal- I want to know why! They are taking their time and spending good money on an experience with me- I want it to be the best it can be.
VENGA: How do you use Venga in your restaurant?
GREG: Whenever I do a pre-shift, I try to spend 80% of the time focused on front-of-house details from the pre-shift report, and 20% of the time on something educational. One of the staff favorites are the sommelier flash cards which offer some great wine trivia! I know that the better my staff works together, the better everyone’s experience is. The more money they make too!