Search This Blog

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!


Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha' penny, Two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns

3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon instant powdered milk
1/4 cup white sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg white
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup dried currants
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water

Glaze
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cross Glaze
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons milk

Directions
1.Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in a mixer, knead for 1 minute. 

2.Add currants and spices. Knead for
six minutes. Allow to rise to twice it's size. Punch down and allow to rise a second time.

3.Punch down on floured surface, cover, shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes. 

5.Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls. 

6.Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack. 

7.Mix glaze and brush on buns while hot.

8.To make crosses: mix together confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and milk. Brush an X on each cooled bun.(I don't pipe the cross because Jesus ins't there anymore, he rose from the grave for me.)

Apple Bavarian Torte

Crust:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Cheese Mixture:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup 35% cream (whipping cream)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Mixture:
6 apples - peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds



DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cream together butter, 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and flour. Press crust mixture into the flat bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar. Beat in the cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour cheese mixture over crust.

Combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss the sliced apples and raisins  with the sugar mixture and spread over the cheese filling.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 65 minutes. Sprinkle almonds over top of torte. Continue baking until almonds are lightly browned and apples are tender. Refrigerate for 4 hours before removing from pan.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Foodie & The Truth


The Foodie and The Truth

"A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."
William Blake

We have spoken within this writing regarding the actions and the inner working of those who choose to serve and do so  with excellence. There are however those who are a nemesis of the service operator. They choose a different path and the weapons they choose to battle with are written words. A select few are the ones who truly are dedicated to cuisine, others approach from haughty know it all attitude. They speak with roars but have attached little truth to what they say. So I have an acronym for them as to what the truth could be: Taking Real Understanding to Heart. Those who serve as partners in business are known as the "critic" some are hired to be truthful in journalism, others have elevated themselves to the position and believe they are void of the responsibilities that journalist must live by. In the hospitality industry they have renamed themselves many times over the years. Once known as gastronomes  they became known as the epicures, later gourmets but now they call themselves "the foodie."

 Gastronomy is a word derived from two ancient Greek words,  gastér, meaning stomach and nómos, the laws which govern. Therefore Gastronomy is the a study of the laws that govern that which goes into the stomach. The most respected of all gastronomes would be Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the author of the, Physiology of Taste. A brilliant writer his works have been the foundation and trustworthy source for most other gastronomes including Prosper Montagné who wrote Larousse Gastronomique the dictionary standard for cooking (especially French cuisine) the world over. Any gastronome would be of little worth without having read and fully understanding both of these founders of the laws which govern the stomach. It is important to note that Brillat-Savarin was an outstanding cook and Montagné was an incredible chef. To write well on cuisine you must be able to prepare it in excellence as well. A critic words has no value if in fact they cannot perform that which they are reviewing. "Whoever receives friends and does not participate in the preparation of their meal does not deserve to have friends." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

The "Epicurean" is a philosophy of luxurious pleasures, especially those of food, drink, and bodily comfort. The epicurean follows the teaching of Epicurus an ancient Greek philosopher who taught that life was about pleasure. Therefore all epicurean's propagate a teaching of the pleasure of food. Their writing must herald that the experience is well worth the effort. Epicurus taught that pleasure was gained through modesty in life.  He said, "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life." A conundrum of life.

The epicurean is also an ethicurean one who believes in eating ethically without depriving oneself of taste. They hold to a local, sustainable, organic philosophy and their writings concern themselves with these areas including that of most cuisines. Epicureans would hold to the writings of Miguel Angel Ruiz author of the "Four Agreements" which are:
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Don't Take Anything Personally.
Don't Make Assumptions.
Always Do Your Best.

For the epicurean he has said "Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love." This philosophy would clearly prevent the harsh and destructive words used against many establishments today found on websites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urbanspoon and others (but we will get to them.)

The "Gourmet" is an idealist with a focus upon the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, a person of discriminating taste and who is knowledgeable in the preparation of food. One who is passionate about all areas of food and its formulation. They have the palate and the skill to back their opinion in their writings. Perhaps one of the finest of gourmets was Craig Claiborne the well known and equally respected food editor of the New York Times. Author of many cookbooks including the New York Times cookbook an important book for any cook to own. Many gourmet's are also gourmands which is an epicurean on steroids, any person given over to the excesses of fine dining. They live by the words of Mae West, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful." Mr. Claiborne once consumed a 31 course meal in his pursuit of the finest of food. Again the gourmet speaks about food and concerns themselves with the all aspects of its preparation and service. So their writings are focused upon these points, they equip themselves with knowledge and have the skills to fortify their words.

The Foodie, pick any of the aforementioned review sites and a good amount of the reviews will be written by someone who is a blogger, oh, what's a blogger? Defined by Blogger.com: "A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world." So these food writing bloggers consider themselves to be a "Foodie." So then what is a foodie, best possible explanation is a mishmash of the Gourmet, Epicurean and Gastronomoe, that being the best explanation. However the most common definition is a person who simply has taken a limit amount of knowledge and portrays themselves as an expert in the topic of cuisine.  
I performed an unscientific test, to determine the skill level of foodie bloggers, the result was only 2 of 100 actually had any culinary training, knowledge or work experience. Here is an example of what I found in my study. A world famous three star Michelin guide (highest they award) rated restaurant located in the Napa Valley of California, of 13 restaurant critics, all gave the highest rating possible including the aforementioned three stars. Of the twenty nine foodie bloggers 9 gave a very negative report, 1 on the same day Michelin awarded their three stars (who are you going to believe?) Of the 13 critics all have culinary backgrounds and are paid by their employers (not the restaurant) to review food service establishments. Of the twenty nine foodie bloggers only 1 had any culinary background or history equipping them to review restaurants, (I know not if any are paid.) Skilled blogging foodie's (by skilled I mean having knowledge of the culinary arts and are not writing just because they like to eat) write because they want to express themselves in an artistic manner. They are not paid for writing, if they were paid then the review is called into question which would make them a "hack." "Truth will always be truth, regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance." W. Clement Stone

The foodie blogger is obliged to speak (write) the truth for if they do not then the blog becomes nothing more than a lie and the author, the creator of the lie.  The foodie blogger must be true to the reader, the food, the establishment, and the public, to break trust by writing something untrue is to devalue all who are dependent upon the writing. We all have heard that we are not to believe everything we read, yet we desire to do so. That is why cult's do so well, lazy people believe what they read then do nothing to find the truth. "One of the peculiar sins of the twentieth century which we've developed to a very high level is the sin of credulity. It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything." Malcolm Muggeridge The foodie blogger or writer is not a cult leader but a cuisine leader and must lead the follower on a path that is true to the cuisine.

Although some foodie bloggers can cause havoc, they are an important part of doing business. When they review a restaurant truthfully the operator has a great opportunity to improve. Truthful bloggers are in a sense partnered with the operation in that the words they choose to use can increase or decrease sales, a positive review which goes viral can actually overwhelm the restaurant, the negative one can crush them. A foodie blogger has equal responsibility to that of any other food critic, the truth and nothing but the truth.

As the review sites grow (and they will) so too shall the foodie bloggers that use them as their means to vent, what should an operator who believes in their service do? Many of the sites allow the operator to respond to any reviewer, so monitor the sites (Twitter too) and respond to the reviewer in the same manner you would as if they were still seated in your restaurant. If the reviewer has given valid points, listen to them, and don't make excuses for a poor performance.  Any operator should welcome point of views that will help do the job better. A reviewer who use vague wordy comments are more difficult the respond to, when the review is "the worst thing I ever ate" it begs the question, why? The reviewer needs to be more specific with the comment, why was it the worst. I find it difficult to believe a 1,2 or 3 star restaurant actually made anyone the worst thing they ever ate. In lesser qualified restaurants reviewers need to understand the skill level of the service offered and write accordingly. Perhaps invite the foodie blogger to spend a night working along side the chef and see how they do, and let them know that you too get to write a review on their performance, if they believe in the foodie principals they would jump at such an invitation.

Anonymous appears at the restaurant for a dinner service, great they should, thus being able to receive the exact same service as everyone else, anonymous however should never write as such. Anonymous, who is he or she, how does one take the comments made seriously if they won't even identify themselves and who they may be. We stand beside one another is providing excellence in service, how do stand with whom you cannot know for they choose to hide. "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong." Abraham Lincoln Anonymous often will blog comments they would never say in a face to face conversation therefore the comment is not constructive and needs to treated as such. Their comments are often like a virus which quickly spreads and to others (going viral is the expression) with the same disease that they suffer with, there are healthy viruses but not often found on review sites. There is a name for those who join the bandwagon and add their comments to the original one, they are called "trolls" nothing more need be said. Anonymous means there is no way to verify the skills of the writer and therefore one can only assume the skill is that they have a hate on for whom they are writing about. Although sometimes the bloggers' comments may be slightly negative but it is the trolls that do the damage with just a little feeding, anonymous is still responsible to stop the feeding by being identifiable and by replying to each troll comment.

The fodie(as I have said) is an important part of the food business, as partners, we welcome their input. A writer who uses his or her ability to build the relationship with the customer while not agreeing with you on all points can be very helpful. The actions of the foodie blogger must be those of the paid food critic, no exceptions, same code of ethics. Once you have posted to the internet you are a publisher and thus must abide by the same rules any publisher would demand of their journalists. "Truth is not a matter of fact but a state of harmony with progress and hope. Enveloped only in its wings will we ever soar to the promise of our greater selves." Bryant H. McGill Foodie bloggers may want the subscribe to the same code of ethics as the food reviewer, see http://www.afjonline.com/FoodCriticsGuidelines.cfm then sign up. Finally be true and truthful, true to yourself, the reader and the food, then report truthfully. "Between falsehood and useless truth there is little difference. As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which cannot apply will make no man wise." Samuel Johnson

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Truth In Service


Truth In Service

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
Winston Churchill

Truth or Consequences, a city in New Mexico or a game show or a life lesson? I know, I know, all of them. Well it is the life lesson we will concern ourselves with, truth in service and what are the consequences for either disobeying or obeying the truth. As a chef I will use my industry to be an example, but it holds true for all industries.

We are a"five star" restaurant states the manager to a guest, it's a lie. No one awards 5 stars, the best is 3 stars from the Michelin Guide, 5 diamonds awarded by AAA and Zagat's rates on a point system as does Wine Spectator. For someone to claim such, shows how little they know little about what they are talking about and if they can lie about their rating what other lie's may be found upon the menu.
Common menu lie's are over inflating the ingredient used, (farm salmon touted as wild or even Copper River salmon sold fresh in October (the Copper River season is mid May until July) cannot be true. Other menu lie's are the latest catch words such as sustainable, local or organic. These are the latest hot button terms in the greening of a restaurant, but do you really receive what they claim on the menu. Certified organic means there is a record to track the product, sustainable is a philosophy and subject strictly to to  the claims of the farmer or operator, local often refers to product farmed within 100 miles of the operation (something that can be verified but often is not.) Many restaurants use these terms without providing  the required documentation. I dined in a restaurant just today who made these claims,  in Canada, in winter you cannot get any fresh produce grown within 100 miles, the ground is frozen. So they clearly lie to the customer. There are times of the year when ingredients are simply not available within that 100 mile zone, strawberries may come from California or Florida or even Chilie. Apples are waxed and stored in the fall, getting a fresh one in May it simply doesn't happen although the apple from Washington State may be available year round it still may be last season's apple (which is ok as long as you don't claim it was just picked). In defense of the chef who actually goes to the farmers market (very few do) they need to be asking the right questions as well, the farmer may be getting what he is selling shipped in from elsewhere too. Many farmers will sell other regions until their own product is ready.
The restaurant operator must present what is stated upon the menu, so if they claim an ingredient comes from a certain area then it must: Scottish salmon; Atlantic salmon (can be both a type and a region); Crassostrea gigas or Pacific oysters; Bluepoint oysters raised in Long Island's Great South Bay ; PEI or Idaho potatoes; Bay scallops; Gulf shrimp; PEI Mussels, Smithfield ham; Limerick ham; Alaskan king crab; Long Island duck; Florida stone crabs; French white asparagus.
Leeway may be given for styles rather than districts, New England, Manhattan  and Boston style clam chowder, New York style cheesecake, Maryland style crab,New York or Chicago style pizza, Kansas City or New York strip is commonly accepted and most realize that it is a style of cuisine rather than a district, we all understand that Chinese food does not come from China but rather it is the preparation method of the food.
Often restaurants boast of servicing the" finest" and "freshest" ingredients however when questioned they use terms like IQF (individually quick frozen) to refer to the food ingredient, no matter what frozen is, it is still not fresh. I recently watched a TV commercial referring to bagels as "fresher than fresh" because of the IQF process, still frozen is not fresh, thus it is a lie.  Often compounded with the lie there is just out and out fraud. Veal cutlets made of pork, shrimp used instead of scampi, common beef sold as Black Angus, Kobe or Wagyu (watch out any restaurant that claims the burger is made of these) wild mushrooms must be wild.
Bar's who use well stock instead of the requested brand name knowing most people cannot tell the difference once mix has been added to the drink. How much more money can I get if my customer orders a Masterson 10 year old whiskey at 4.00 an ounce but I give him a Centennial 10 year old at 1.00 per ounce, if they add cola will they know the flavor difference.  The Masterson would sell for 25.00 per drink and the Centennial for 6.00 (at the bar 17% liquor cost) so if two drinks are served with mix I can charge 50.00 and only have a cost of 2.00 instead one of 8.00 (after all he will never know) so the bartender has lied, committed fraud and theft, (after all who is going to pocket the 38.00 difference in just those two drinks?
Truth will prevent the restaurant from using many canned and RTU items as well. Is that sauce on your steak Oscar really Bearnaise (eggs, butter, white wine, lemon juice, tarragon, salt and pepper) or is it something made of modified milk ingredients, palm oil, wheat flour, modified corn starch, monosodium glutamate, corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed protein (corn, soy, wheat), salt, onion powder, silicon dioxide, locust bean & guar gum, citric acid, spices, hydrolyzed casein (milk), hydrolyzed soybean oil, garlic powder, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, color. With  allergens of milk, wheat and soy. Would it not be far nicer if the cooks only knew how to make the sauce in the first place instead of relying upon a microwavable "something". The big factor here is most restaurants proudly declare themselves as MSG (monosodium glutamate) free zones, cooks simply make an instant product that calls itself Bearnaise sauce and states to the server no MSG because they have not read through the ingredients listed upon the package. Reading labels prevent's problems in the dining room as well, maple "flavored" syrup is not maple syrup for pancakes.
We may ask ourselves, how is that we are not speaking truth? This is so easy to answer, in doing so lets look at what a lie is. There are two kinds of lies, both wrong, both destructive. What there is not is what we call a big lie or a little lie, a lie is a lie. So what are the two kinds of lies, white lies and black lies.
Something white has always been thought of as day, light, beneficial, good, pure, not presenting any harm. Whereas something black is considered dark, night, destructive, very harmful. Other terms we use this comparison with: white and black magic, black and white ideas or choices, seeing everything in black or white, an agreement written in black and white.

So then a "little white lie" can't be harmful, can it? Most white lies are conceived to manipulate someone into a course of action that who favor the liar, not usually beneficial to anyone except the liar. In a restaurant my menu white lie manipulates the customer into buying an item at a cost higher than what I should charge or reassures the guest I am offering them what they want when in fact I knowingly am not. Morality says we don't lie, compromising our morals gives us the needed permission to tell little white lies.  We want our customers to think highly of us therefore we tell them what they want to hear so that our self-esteem or our confidence in our business skills do not come under question.

The little white lies are ok because we have not harmed anyone, right? Wrong for we have caused harm first to our sense of morality which devalues who we are, once caught in our lie we generally tell another and yet another cover of the first, it eventually gets lost in a maze of lies and our integrity is now gone. Some may believe that the telling of the white lie is really just being kind and showing kindness. To be kind is defined as being: useful, to lie to someone only serves you and has no good use ever. People want the truth regardless of the circumstance, you're not being kind to tell them anything less than the truth. If the truth cannot be expressed because of a possibility of harming sensitivities, just ask yourself what will be the repercussions be in the end? If they will be harmful (and they will be with a lie) then tell the truth. Everyone can be truthful, just word the answer in a way that holds integrity.

Truth is kindness, those who receive the truth have knowledge upon which they may shape their future, immediate or for the  long term.  "Is this the best thing you ever ate?" asks the new cook, when it was not so good at all,  the comforting lie would be a simple yes, the truth could be worded "there is potential for you to produce the best thing I ever ate if you will only do...." No lies and the cook gets a useful bit of knowledge. We place greater value on hearing the truth so we may move forward than hearing a falsehood that only strokes our ego.

No matter the circumstance there is never the place for the white lie, especially in service. We want to build relationships and to do so on the grounds of a falsehood will only catch us in the end and we suffer the loss of the relationship. What price have you placed upon your integrity.

A black lie of course is any lie spoken to cover and protect ourselves or out and out deceive another for our personal gain. We talked earlier about Bernie Madoff the King of the Liar's he did only that which pleased or made gains for himself, all based upon black lies. Be sure that the fall is great, I wonder what price Bernie had upon his son's life.

Most bartenders, like car salespeople, insurance salespeople are masters at the lie, telling the customer what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, that is the kindness we cans serve, speak the truth.
Service demands truth and if you want the best of your customer than give them the best you have, the truth. Many states, provinces and most city health departments actually have "truth in menu" laws, and the operator could be closed for misrepresenting their menu with lies. Homemade (house made) must be so, not a purchased product, using ingredients which are claimed to be not in the building (MSG), Most government law enforcement can enforce truth in menu laws and literally hundreds per year experience some punitive action for lies expressed on the menu.

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." Albert Einstein

"The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill

"Our duty is to encourage every one in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth." Swami Vivekananda

"Truth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness." Khalil Gibran

"Tell me I'm clever, Tell me I'm kind, Tell me I'm talented, Tell me I'm cute, Tell me I'm sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I'm perfect - But tell me the truth." Shel Silverstein

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " John 8:32 Jesus The Christ

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Service, Sales & Satisfaction


Have you ever noticed that most car dealerships always divide their dealership into three areas, the showroom, a sales area, and a service area. Sales and service are always divided, you are sold in the sales area and then serviced by others. Both departments are staffed by "professionals" and are equipped to resolve the problems you may present to them, both want you to leave with whatever they choose to sell to you, therein lies the problem.

The salesperson has a quota set by the dealership, he or she must sell cars or lose their job. The service manager also has a quota set and most upsale the service call, even a free oil change can end up costing hundreds in unexpected repairs. The dealership has lost the main idea, "the customer is the one buying."
True service knows the most important part of selling is a customer who is willing to buy. A person pressured or "convinced" to buy will be a dissatisfied and disgruntled customer. Every good salesperson knows the key to a happy customer is first to listen. How do you fill a need if you have not discovered what the need may be. Too often the salesperson wants to talk in order to get across why their product is so much better than the competitors. The customer however only wants to know why the product fills their need.
Every salesperson needs to be instructed by a good server. No server would ever tell the customer what they are going to eat, drink or how they are going to pay the bill. Yet this is the action of most salespeople. You want this car because it does all these wonderful things, the radio will get 300 satellite stations (as if anyone would listen to 300 instead of the five most people do) the GPS system are programmed with all of the 20,366 Starbucks stores in 61 countries (but somehow not the one around the corner) it can go 0-100 miles in 20 seconds (but on what road.)

The server is trained is to listen to the customer, they order a steak, they server wants to know how they like it. They order a coffee beverage, the server knows to ask how they want it, black with sugar, cream, a double double. The server just doesn't bring a dessert but they give the customer descriptive choices. They listen to what the customer desires to purchase then they do everything possible to fulfill the request. Thus no effort needed to close a sale, the customer buys exactly what they want and the server receives the commission in the form of a tip.

Sales should be exactly the same, for a salesperson is in the same industry as the server, fulfilling the needs of the customer by listening to the customer. If you sell for a living, (cars, insurance, furniture anything) the sale is made by listening first to the customer. We have often heard the expression "it's not personal, it's just business" but for the customer buying something for life's need is personal, and they want that salesperson to have a personal involvement, it is not a business to them it is very personal. The customer takes the spending of their budget very personal and they care more about receiving value of those dollars, value and   what the product can do for them. The sales professional will see to it that the customer knows that they have been listened to and their money is being spent in a manner that will improve the life they desire to have.
When was the last time you saw a waitress on the street looking for someone to serve, never right! Why, because their customers always come to them. Most salespeople miss this simple reality, the customer has come to them. Then listen to what the customer wants when they show up at the door.

Define the need, a family man with 3 kids wants a high powered sports car but needs the four door sedan, listening and defining the need will put him into a car that both his family and he will be very happy with. Attracting a potential customer is costly, but seeing them buying at the competitor next door is even more costly. You prevent this by listening and fulfilling the need, it is a very personal way to a successful business. Fulfilling the need of the customer is paramount, we need to understand his need, set aside any need of ours we may have (the final sale) and do everything in our power to meet that need of the client. Building the business is complete through building the relationship.

Too often the salesperson wants to impress the client with how much they know about the product, and yes, the client may need to know about the product. But listening to the client will tell the salesperson when to hush, and let the customer talk, ask questions or absorb the knowledge they have been given.  No client ever wants to feel they are not smart enough or intelligent enough to comprehend what they are seeking to purchase. A smart phone is not so smart to the user who doesn't understand it because the salesperson has given an over kill demonstration. Show the phone, let the customer see it will do, what they need it to, make the sell and when the customer is comfortable with what they have purchased let them know how much more it will do for them. If you overwhelm them with information then they feel inferior and will look for a way not to buy. Listening shows you when the customer is becoming uncomfortable with the conversation even though you are trying to provide information for the clients well being.

A good listener knows where to take the conversation. A good server knows that when a customer says they don't like something to ask probing questions to find a replacement for the item that is being rejected (they also know to be sure that the rejected item never comes near the diners dinner.) The salesperson should know when listening to ask the questions that will lead the conversation to the clients desired conclusion. Although the job is to make the sale creating the long term relationship by listening to the client outweighs all other concerns. Happy clients always buy, unhappy ones stop buying with you.
Stay on topic. If you take the conversation in various directions you will lose the client, this can include overselling the product. You need to explain the product to a comfortable point, when the client becomes uncomfortable is when you will lose the sale. You can only know this point by listening well to the client. If they change the topic you have lost them, getting them back on topic may not be so easy.

By listening you avoid giving the client an opportunity to shut down the conversation. Asking  questions designed to draw out a meaningful response, not a simple yes or no, gives them a true opportunity to be involved in their purchase, something they will have to live with much longer than the salesperson. They truly want to ask questions about their purchase knowing that the person providing the answer is more involved with them than with the product being offered.

Stick to the benefits, never misrepresent the product. By listening to the clients questions they will lead you to explain the benefits of their purchase. In doing so you build their confidence in their decision and you avoid the urge to discredit the competitor's product. If your product is what the client is looking for then their search is over, running down the competition only will make them curious to find out why you're insecure about your product. The only opinion that really matters is that of the client who is buying your product, double talk confuses their opinion about you and your product.

The restaurant server always offers options, but regardless of what they think the client's decision is, it is always the right one. If the client hates chocolate (who really does) the server will know not to bring something containing chocolate. The server found out by asking the right questions and listening to the customer, then offering options that fit their customers choices. No matter how great the server may love chocolate it is not open for discussion with the customer, they move on to something else (maybe strawberry.) So too the sales person must do the same, offer options.

Never, never, never ever say what someone else wants you to say. Listening must first begin within you. You must stay true to you. You will never find success or happiness if you rely upon what others say or think about you and your convictions. Great salespeople are not moved by the negative opinion of the general population, the world needs salespeople even when they don't know it. The great ones know it and fill the need, they do so by staying true to their own convictions.

As a chef I cannot lower my standards, I cannot allow others to offer less than what is very good. To do so would be to take from who I am, my convictions are that the customer deserves the finest, freshest ingredients that I can prepare, anything less is to steal from the customer and I am no thief. If my menu says I use the best then I better use the best, if not I am lying to the customer my convictions will not permit such a lie. To compromise my convictions for a temporal gain would be wrong.

Earlier in this blog I told you how a client used my name, trade name and marketed me to promote a different restaurant which I had nothing to do with and without notifying me or with my approval. They actually sold me! Yet when they were caught they were the ones who became offended, they compromised their convictions. When you compromise any standard; you offend yourself, and thus lash out at those with whom you have committed the offense against. (The lawyer is biting at the bit for this one) They make money but lie and deceive to do so, no conviction. Your convictions are a reflection of the truth as to who you are, standing for them and doing so boldly lets everyone else know your value. Your convictions must never bring harm or violate the rights of another or affect their liberty or well being, if you touch any of those then your convictions must be examined and readjusted. This restaurant group believes that because they are successful then they can continue to do what they do, lying to their customers, deceiving them as to whose reputation is on the line, that is okay to them but still wrong, anything wrong will eventually have dire consequences.

Listening to your convictions, to your clients and serving them according to both will only result in a bright future. Enjoy yours.