“The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” is a phrase I have been using as my mantra since I was very young. It has helped me push my limits in pursuit of that excellence that my mother instilled in me at a very early age.

Pursuit of Excellence in Hospitality

How can this pursuit of excellence be applied to the daily operations of a hotel, restaurant, or bar? Put simply, never compromise your push for excellence, and insist on ensuring that all areas of the operation are at a very top level of execution. Do not settle for less. There is no other way to become a leader than by pursuing excellence in all you do.

Once you have cemented your own pursuit of excellence, you must instill that love for excellence in your teams, because without them internalizing it and believing in their own pursuit of excellence, you will be spinning your wheels.

Ongoing Education with our Hospitality Teams

There is a simple answer as to how to instill the “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” in our teams, and it is called EDUCATION! Yes, it is both that simple and that complex.  When I say education, I do not mean just training. Of course, we must train our teams day in and day out, but you also must pursue avenues for self-improvement – whether it is reading books about leadership or taking a course on leadership and self-improvement, or if you have the time, enrolling in school to further your formal education. Anything that will enhance your personal and professional growth and expertise is what you need to do.

As leaders, we must continue to learn daily so we can pass that knowledge to our respective teams. Furthermore, we need to instill in the members of our teams the need to continue to educate themselves in all aspects but particularly on food and beverage, and on service, so they can grow as leaders and to make a positive impression on their guests.

Many professionals in our industry feel that they know it all, or at least, they think they know enough to perform their job and are content with that. They feel that because they reach the level of Restaurant Manager or Director of Food and Beverage or have reached a corporate position, that they are finished learning. They are so wrong!

Pursuit of Excellence: An Example

I challenge you all to think when the last time was that you checked the spelling of all your menus – line-by-line, word-for-word. How many misspellings and grammatical errors did you find? If you did check them and found zero mistakes, then congratulations. If you have not taken the time to check them, then I encourage you to do it. And do not be surprised if you find not one, but many errors. I have done this exercise every time I have moved from one company to another. I was surprised to find many menus with multiple spelling errors at many of the hotels I was now in charge in my new corporate role.

I am sure you would say: Why would a corporate F&B executive would take the time to review hotels’ menus to find typos? Because it gave me a measure of how much the local team was paying attention to details. If they were not paying attention to their menus, then they were not paying attention to other areas of their operation. In the end, excellence is the consistent execution of the minor details.

Offer More than “Training”.

I do not doubt that most of the Food and Beverage professionals have spent a lot of time training their staff in all the steps to follow to provide quality service. But how many have taken the time to learn something new every day? How many can honestly say they have spent time making themselves better than the day before?

When I got my first corporate job as VP of F&B for an upscale hotel company, I immediately started thinking about how to make a true difference, so I embarked in a consistent drive to instill excellence in my F&B teams at the various hotels under my watch. I pushed them to embrace excellence and pay attention to the minor details.  The results? Our JD Power scores for F&B positioned us at the top of all other Upscale Hotels for three consecutive years. That is what the relentless pursuit of excellence produces – outstanding results, which in turn produce happy customers who become fans of your hotels because they are treated with excellence. At then end, the hotel makes more revenues and that closes the circle of success.

And I give you another example of how leadership is paramount to success. When, in 2007, I joined Wyndham Hotels and Resorts as their Vice President of Food and Beverage, the company had just acquired The Westin Rio Mar Puerto Rico, Golf and Beach Resort and converted it to the Wyndham brand. This new hotel was a priority for my new company, so it was the first Wyndham hotel I visited in my new role of VP.

As it is customary for me – and this is something I highly recommend you do – I always start my hotel tours by visiting the staff with the lowest ranked positions, so I started visiting the dishwashing areas and talking to all the dishwashers on duty, learning their names and how long they have been doing their jobs. I then proceeded to meet everyone in the kitchen – from Garde Manger to the Hot Line and then moved on to the Front of the House. I shook hands with everyone and learned a little about them.

During my walkthrough, I met a young man who was the Banquet Junior Sous Chef. His name is Ramon Carrillo. He impressed me because when I asked him how long he has been at this hotel, he told me that he started a few years earlier as a dishwasher but that he was always curious about the kitchen and began learning during the slow times in his dishwashing duties. He learned enough to be promoted to various kitchen positions.

This young man impressed me so much that I stayed in touch with him and talked to him about pursuing excellence in everything he did, and he was eager to learn more about it. And I then asked the F&B Director of the hotel to keep me abreast of his growth. In my subsequent visits to the hotel, I would meet with him. I would also ask him to cook a degustation menu for me and the Executive Committee of the hotel. I wanted to see his creativity and how much he improved year after year. To make a long story short, he was soon promoted to Sous Chef and later to Executive Sous Chef and finally, in 2012, I was privileged to approve his promotion to Executive Chef of the hotel, a job that he continues to do. And not only he excels as a chef, he also excels  as a leader, always pursuing excellence and teaching his team to do the same.

This is just one more example of how excellence pays its rewards. I can mention many others, but I think you get the idea of why the relentless pursuit of excellence pays its rewards and makes you and your team better leaders.

Differentiate Yourself as a True Leader

And, as I said earlier, here is where true leaders differentiate themselves from the rest. True leaders spent time learning to better themselves and then share that knowledge with their team. It is not only about teaching policies and procedures. It is about inspiring the members of their team to be better every day. It is through that relentless pursuit of excellence that we can give our guests a superior experience that will make them loyal customers.