Dishin' That: Once again, at your service

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Everyone in the hospitality business has a not-so-fond memory of a buser, bartender, or even a manager who went on “a quick break” and never came back.

Food sat orphaned under a heat lamp because the expediter/runner was now too busy to serve it. Encrusted saute pans and silverware became a precarious Jenga tower. Drink order tickets, typically snapped up and concocted immediately, cascaded to the floor. All because someone stepped out for a never-ending smoke break, leaving the operation with the potential to burst into flames.

Here at The Forecaster, my extended break from this column did none of that. Weekly Dishin’ That-less papers rolled off the press per usual and, aside from space to fill, no one was any worse off for it. Tabling the column, I delved further into advertising, marketing, special projects and customer service.

Becoming successful at what my day job has morphed into surprised no one more than me. In fact, it surprised no one except me. Unwilling to admit this might be a good fit, I didn’t fully adjust until I realized selling newspaper, niche magazine and web advertising to cautiously interested businesses is like approaching a table of indecisive diners.

This metaphoric epiphany hit me during a frustrating work stretch. My publisher/life coach was out of town. The dynamics in the office were as if everyone was having a two-star horoscope month. The urge to take a forever break of my own tugged strong.

Then, a text from my BFF gently asked if I was on crack.

BFF recommended I not burn a bridge to the place that will help pay for the big-girl clothes my youngest daughter needs for her coveted fall graduate assistantship (yep, off to graduate school for the same person who ordered “extra white annchobies” on her Caesar salad not so many years ago.) BFF also said to wait another day, take a deep breath, and all the great stuff BFF’s say when a self-inflicted crisis almost happens.

“You’ve been there before and always make it work,” were her final words before shifting to more pressing priorities about a $5 Cosmo happy hour someplace on Exchange Street. Per usual, she was right, and along with the accompanying $5 appetizers, I thought of the many bombshell restaurant moments sitting dormant and suppressed in my memory banks.

A floodgate of experiences from the hospitality world instantly became my secret weapon to loving my day job.

Sure, the setting is way different. The advantage of people being two craft cocktails into the print buying/selling process usually doesn’t exist, which is a good thing. But just like customers in the restaurant world, most folks have an idea of what they want, but know little about the specifics of products they are buying. It becomes my role to upsell, but not oversell. To explain sizes, the advantages and disadvantages of full color, and like the restaurant world, to encourage frequency.

Terms like per-column-inch, drop-dead deadlines and premium placement are scary for customers developing a marketing strategy. The same goes for people reading a menu with exotic spices, unfamiliar preparation phrases and wine lists including descriptions like, “the smoky smell of dry leaves on an autumn day.”

Here’s an example of the translation from restaurant-speak to print media lingo: “Would you like to share a house-made dessert this evening? It will be hard to pick, but that’s the perfect size for the lovely meal you both ate.” Sure, I could push a larger ad/two desserts, but that would not be in my customer’s best interests, inducing mistrust.

And it is here that I have found my happy place.

While not exactly serving in this position, I am still of service. I am making realistic recommendations, building mutually beneficial relationships, connecting people and best of all, I’m doing it in my own style. Plus, it’s a sweet regular schedule.

As for the office, things have settled down. We have progressive changes coming and most days are fours and fives. Like a waterfront deck on a summer day, I’m swamped. But not too busy for the weekly reservation of Dishin’ That.

Natalie Ladd detests restaurant reviews, but always has an opinion. She has spent most of her working life studying the human-nature, behind-the-scenes side of hospitality and is passionate about sharing it. And she still loves Bruce Springsteen. Reach out: