I had one of the most rewarding restaurant experiences I had in a long time last Saturday. And that says a lot from a guy who eats at least one meal a day in a restaurant, lives in the heart of the west coast´s culinary center, and spent a decade in New York dining out.
The experience had little to do with the food that was served, but more with the spirit, enthusiasm, and attitude of the person catering to our needs. The establishment should be a case study for culinarians on how to pump up a staff, make customers feel welcome, and engage in the art of conversation, all the while boosting the image of the company and people you work for.
First off- The Carneros Inn is not your run of the mill resort.
Located on highway Sonoma Highway the inn is surrounded by the picturesque vineyards of the Carneros region and is a PlumpJack Resort. Plumpjack Resorts have a handful-plus of restaurants, inns and hospitality venues. We eat at The Boonfly Café regularly, as it is a comfortable space with good food and is almost in the neighborhood.
On Saturday, yard work had gotten the better of us and ice tea and salad seemed to be the only thing that could stave off total heat deterioration. The Boonfly Café.
Dressed in gardening shorts and boots we walked into the café and sat at the bar. We hadn´t been seated for more than 60 seconds when Jamin, our bartender asked what we wanted to drink.
When we told him two iced teas and a one Cobb Salad, he immediately asked if we wanted it split. We agreed. Split would be nice.
When the two, beautifully presented salads were served, they each had their own ramekin of dressing on the side.
The food presentation was great. But, it was Jamin who made the experience memorable.
When asked how long he worked at Carneros he said he had been there for a little over six months. Usually by the six month period in any server´s life they begin to get a little jaded about the gig they are performing.
Jamin should be head of the PR department. When asked about the flavor of the ice tea, he went through the entire procedure of how he had just gone through a tasting with Mighty Tea representatives and PlumpJack decided on the tropical fruit tea we were drinking.
When we inquired how he enjoyed the company, he bragged about how The Carneros Inn had beaten a rival property, the highly acclaimed Matrix Lounge in San Francisco at the annual holiday bowling party. It was the first time Matrix had lost the trophy since its opening three years ago.
Jamin went on to tell us that the rooms at The Carneros Inn began at about $360.00 a night and went as high as $1000.00 a night.
For those who are not familiar with the PlumpJack organization it began as a wine shop in San Francisco by Gavin Newsom and has grown into a major force in the hospitality industry. Newsom has also grown as a major force in the hospitality industry and now heads one of the major hospitality centers in the world. Since becoming the Mayor of San Francisco, Newsom has left his post at PlumpJack while overseeing The City. However, he has left his philosophical mark on the company that he still owns.
When asked how much he was learning, working in the restaurant business, Jamin quoted from the PlumpJack employee manual Newsom had penned.
Spewing a few of the quotes the Mayor had included in the book, Jamin was most impressed with "lead, follow, or get out of the way."
On the way out of the café I couldn´t help but tell the manager what a great guy they had behind the bar. And, on the way home we discussed how his overflowing enthusiasm for the company and his job was a breath of fresh air in an industry where employee problems abound.
The answer to the problem is training and having management and owners walk the talk expressed in the training seminars. And, knowing Newsom, who set an incredible example for his employees long before he became Mayor of San Francisco, he still raises the bar for performance, daily. And, his fellow employees at PlumpJack also set an incredible example for other employees that owners should be envious of.
Often owners´ forget that they are the leaders that set the example. It something we should all remember.
The bill for a split Cobb Salad and two ice teas was $21.00. The lesson I learned from Jamin, priceless.