Monday, March 26, 2012

Controlling Customers

I am a control freak. A bona fide, high-maintenance, don’t color outside the lines control freak!

I do not adjust well to change. I do not like it when plans change. I do not break the rules. I do not cope well with adjusting expectations. When shift happens, the shift hits my fan.

Chef Mike Horri is also a control freak. He is the “soup Nazi” of Italian food (all of you Seinfeld fans know exactly what I’m talking about. Can’t you hear it now: “No soup for you!”).

And Chef Mike is the newest addition to my list of stars.

I met Chef Mike last week. I was traveling for work (public seminar events for Jeffrey Gitomer in Seattle) and some of our event volunteers recommended we have dinner at Pasta Freska, Mike’s restaurant. So off we went, three men (Andy, Jordan, and Kevin) and a little sales barista to Pasta Freska.

First impression – the pizza slice shaped building was slightly shabby but gave off a you-know-it’s-going-to-be-good, hole-in-the-wall feel to me.

Second impression – Chef Mike, who had fully embraced the role of owner and head chef clad in his white chef’s jacket asked, “how many?”

Third impression – We were sat at our dimly lit yet cozy table for four - the lighting could be better.

Fourth impression – Where are the menus? What?! No menus! This can’t be right. How am I able to control my meal if there are no menus?

What followed was Chef Mike making one simple statement, four times, “Tell me one food that you absolutely can’t stand.”

“ONIONS!” I definitely wasn’t scared to answer that question. And around the table Chef Mike went until he had four answers…onions, anchovies, chunks of tomatoes, ditto. And that was it. Chef Mike walked away and dinner was ordered. Can you believe it?

What ensued next was a 7-course dinner filled with the most perfectly-paired red wine, roasted eggplant, salad, mouth-melting garlic bread, pasta, sweetly stuffed chicken marsala, mussels, salmon, a quartet of desserts, and for me – not one single onion. DELISH!

This was THE best restaurant experience of my life. And it single-handedly can be attributed to the star-quality of Chef Mike.

What made Chef Mike a star? What made him shine brighter than all of the other restaurant experiences?

Three simple reasons: he was an expert, he was exuberant, and he was in control.

How to elevate your own star quality:
1. Be an Expert. Chef Mike is an expert; an expert of pasta, Italian food, wine, restaurants, and overall dining experiences. Not one of us questioned what he was going to serve us. He was confident from his greeting to the slamming of the wine on our table. He established himself as an expert not only by his position of founder and chef (don’t get me wrong, that helps) but also by the way he walked and talked. How much of an expert are you both in position and poise?
2. Be Exuberant. Chef Mike was full of life and love for his job and it RADIATED from him, making it contagious and affecting us, in a good way. He was happy and fully engaged with each customer’s experience. His exuberant personality made up over half of his star quality. When you love what you do, it radiates and affects everyone around you. How effective is your exuberance?
3. Be in Control. Pasta Freska’s website states: “Dinner at Pasta Freska is based on Chef Mike Horri's ‘Have it your way’ philosophy!’” But I disagree. I would instead say: “Dinner at Pasta Freska is based on Chef Mike Horri’s ‘Have it MY way’ philosophy!” Mike controlled everything as soon as we walked into his restaurant. He controlled our greeting, our table, our menu, our wine, our food, and our overall experience. All the while, making sure not to serve us anything that we absolutely hated. He was a control freak. How much of a control freak are you? Are you controlling your customer’s greetings, their orders, and their overall experience?

Chef Mike is a control freak and he is a star. He is the epitome of controlling your business, your environment, and your customers to ensure that they have an amazing experience that will leave them bragging about you to everyone they know.

I’m your Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista. How may I help you help yourself?

Stephanie Melish, one of the few, hand-selected, Gitomer-Certified Speakers is the ONLY Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista in the world! Stephanie trains, sells, and speaks to companies and associations all over the country. To book Stephanie for your next event, please visit or contact the friendly folks at Buy Gitomer via email at or by calling 704-333-1112.


  1. you are a great storyteller... thx

  2. This is a joke, right? I've read the same thing 20 times before from other "Sales Experts". Get an original idea.....and your storytelling is dry.

    1. The point is not "original idea" But the idea of being an expert in your environment. As for "read the same thing 20 times" there is no such thing as an "original idea" so maybe stop reading articles and blogs, etc from "Sales Experts".

    2. Stephanie, another great article with many important points to positively impact sales and life. Thank you.
      Anonymous Joker, if you have nothing nice to say, suck it up and move on, you're wasting our time!
      Mike Paschen

    3. Thanks Mike, I think you spoke for 99.9% of us! Great article Stephanie, really enjoyed it!
      -Bryan Kreuzberger

    4. Thank you for the kind words everyone. I appreciate your support!

  3. Your story reminds me of a somewhat famous, by Hoosier standards, restaurant in the little town of Red Key, Indiana. This "bump in the road" town was the site of Shambarger's restaurant. I became knowledgeable of this establishment while attending Ball State University about a half an hour south. I never was able to partake, being a poor college kid. Reservations were always 6 months out and people not only traveled from all points of the US but also Europe. The uniqueness was that dinner was a complete entertainment experience. There was one menu each evening and you did not know what was to be served until you were served. The owner put on a very memorable show and served an equally fine meal that generated much repeat business. I am sorry I never was able to personally experience the event. The owner died and the restaurant no longer exists, as I understand.

    Jim White

  4. Sounds like a restaurant I would love. We had a salesman at our company that brought an espresso machine and Milano cookies to his customer's house. He would make them the best cup of coffee give them what he told them were the perfect cookies to go with his coffee. By the end of his presentation he sold more than any other salesperson in the company. He is now one of two regional directors for our company. Your three simple suggestions are spot on.

    1. Wild Bill - As a coffee and cookie fanatic, he would have had me buying too! Kudo's to him. Thank you for the kind words.