#08: Thoughts on Leadership: A Meal to Remember

By Gino Blefari

My travels this week took me to Charleston, SC, to attend the Real Living Connection conference with the outstanding Real Living Real Estate brokers. After I landed in Charleston, I asked the concierge at my hotel for a few good dinner recommendations. She kindly offered her favorite local spots, among them a steakhouse called Halls Chophouse. Now, if any of you know me well, you know I like my steak; the decision was simple.

So, off I went to find this restaurant, walking along the historic streets of Charleston, lined by little shops and restaurants steeped in good old Southern charm. As I made my way to Halls, I noticed most restaurants were empty but it didn’t catch me off guard because it was, after all, a Tuesday night. I didn’t expect much of a crowd, or even a wait, as I turned the corner onto King Street and spotted Halls up ahead. However, when I walked in, I was surprised to see it was completely packed.

“What’s going on here?”

Gino Blefari, HSF Affiliates LLC incoming CEO with Halls Chophouse owners, Billy and Tommy Hall.

Gino Blefari, HSF Affiliates LLC incoming CEO with Halls Chophouse owners, Billy and Tommy Hall.

I didn’t get a chance to answer my own question because I was immediately greeted by a smiling hostess.

“No reservation? No problem.”

I found myself sitting with a perfect view of the front door, where the hostess and two of Halls’ owners, Billy and Tommy Hall, stood to greet anyone who walked in or left the restaurant.

What followed next was a meal I’ll never forget. And do you know why? It’s not because of the quality of the steak or the price of my dinner—the latter was completely fair and the former tasty—it was actually because of the entire experience provided by Halls, an establishment that clearly understands the importance of quality service and how it can translate into business success. I watched for more than an hour as Billy and Tommy met customers who came through the door, warmly addressing each one not as a patron but as a member of the Halls Chophouse family. Isn’t that how all clients and customers should be treated by managers?

Back at the hotel, I couldn’t stop thinking about Halls. A quick Google search told me that the owners, Billy, Tommy, Jeanne and Bill, Sr. have decades of hotel management experience, and I finally understood why their restaurant was run like a five-star hotel.

The next day, I knew I had to return to Halls, if only to compliment the owners on what an impression their staff made. Luckily, when I arrived around noon, they were all there, and even invited me to speak at the staff meeting later that day. I was excited to learn that these regular discussions took place every afternoon, and ensured that Halls’ standard of quality service was always upheld. At exactly 4:30 p.m. each day, the entire staff gathered for an overview of that night’s food and wine offerings from the chef and sommelier and then would recite their credo, reminding them about the importance of stellar customer service.

So, here’s the message: Leaders help their team create a full-service experience from the minute a customer walks in the door. These great leaders understand that it’s essential to connect with customers in a way that makes them feel like they’re part of an extended family. A great leader can transform any room—or restaurant—from a place full of strangers into a place full of friends.

GINO BLEFARI is incoming CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

14 responses to #08: Thoughts on Leadership: A Meal to Remember

  1. Excellent Blog. I agree with the leadership standards . I visit so many starter restaurants that unfortunately have spent the time on a real vision.

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    • Nice Gino, on many levels. Reminds me of my 1st experience at a Nordstroms 25 years ago, the level of real congenial service was amazing……no wonder I am still a customer!

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  2. I am the proud Owner/BIC of Berkshire Hathaway Southern Coast RE, which serves the Charleston market of the Tri-counties of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester. What makes Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices outstanding? The service we provide our clients, is the total difference between good and outstanding leadership.

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  3. victorlund

    It is easy to admire Gino – a man who loves great management as much as a great steak. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. LITSWD

    I can only imagine how they felt when they met you! You are now probably just like family to them. 🙂

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  5. Another lesson learned here is to let those that give great service a compliment. I will bet that the owners and employees will remember this time spent with Gino and want to use BHHS when they buy a home. Thanks Gino for the great example.

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  6. Gino, great insight. Bill Hall Jr. Was an assistant athletic director at SJSU and also worked at Martis Camp new home sales in Tahoe.
    All the best, Spencer

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  7. What sets apart true customer service from mere service is the unfaltering focus on providing “anticipatory service” – knowing what the customer may want or need and presenting it in manner that is seeped in respect for the customer’s habits and privacy. The Ritz Carlton exemplifies this in their credo “We are ladies & gentlemen, serving ladies & gentlemen.”

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  8. Jody Holsinger

    Great message! and you can never beat great service anywhere, anytime! It was a pleasure to meet you in Charleston and I am looking forward to your leadership.

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  9. Sam Parwiz

    Awesome story Gino, I love the lesson you share about what a great leader can do for any business. You exemplify this leadership qualty always!

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