Service 101: Awareness

“Awareness is the birthplace of possibility. Everything you want to achieve begins here.”–Deepak Chopra


restaurant consultant los angeles

As a Service Coach, I observe restaurant teams in action and coach them how to win the game of earning customers for life. I take groups of service professionals from being average–and sometimes minor–players to being highly coveted members of an award-winning team. I help shape natural talent into something special.

Most owners understand the basic business proposition of giving their customers a consistent product.  But what many people in business fail to identify and grow in their staff is the importance of making customers feel as if their needs were exceeded. Again and again and again. Businesses that take the time to help their staff be aware, listen, and foster an intuitive sense about what customers want, tend to be the winners in the game of making customers for life.

I am lucky to be a restaurant consultant who has the great fortune of working with smart and insightful people who understand the value of hospitality. These visionary business owners see the long road ahead of them, recognize the need to invest in customer service programs, and bring me on to help improve their game. Like most great leaders, my clients understand the value of getting assistance to sure up their weaknesses–way before a weaknesses become a failure.

The first step in successful coaching starts with observing. I can tell a lot about a restaurant within the first few minutes of watching them in action. Give me a corner seat, a handful of minutes during a busy service, and I can give you an accurate assessment of a restaurant team’s potential, problems, and requirements.

Following my initial observations, I show clients what I’ve learned from watching their dining room. I offer them information on how keeping a constant eye on specific areas of their dining room can result in obtaining key information about their diners and how to better deliver what they need. Even in some of the best restaurants, leaders may fail to identify key areas for improvement. I notice dropped napkins while staff members walk over them. I identify neglected customers and lost sales opportunities where staff members walk past in a rush to get another task done. In some especially hurting businesses when owners can only see business losses, I may find unlocked beer coolers and liquor storage areas, menus with confusing descriptions, managers with lacking leadership skills, and dining rooms with a personality disorder.

Awareness may be something we’re born with. Our modern lives drain us of the impulse to stay aware. Lately, it seems, most Americans don’t seem all that comfortable with awareness.

We are a nation of multi-taskers. We watch TV while we eat dinner. We check email while we wait in line. We scan Facebook updates while we work. We listen to our favorite music so we don’t have to pay too close attention the turmoil of a traffic jam or the pains of a difficult workout. Have you noticed a recent uptick in the number of people who walk into you because they’re too busy texting or focusing something else other than walking? How many times have you seen people text their way through a green light? When was the last time you went to a restaurant, a retail shop, or a place of business and was impressed with the staff’s high level of attentiveness?

Look, awareness may not be the sexiest of solutions–it doesn’t come in a sleek package and isn’t a quick fix–but being conscious of our surroundings does seem to be needed in dining room and retail spaces across our country. Awareness is something that must be taught and reinforced. It requires hard work from restaurant owners and leaders to cultivate. Supporting restaurant employees to practice mindfulness while doing their complicated job of serving guests will result in appreciative customers and even a happier staff.

So if you’re interested in better serving your customers or improving your life, I suggest you start working on being more aware of your daily actions and routines. Take the blinders off. Unplug from your social media. Keep your eyes up. Turn off your phone. Take some time to do nothing but be aware of your surroundings. Go for a walk. Go to the beach and watch the waves. Meditate. Practicing mindfulness and active awareness will help you see opportunities you’ve been missing in your workplace and in your life.

3 Levels of Awareness

Take some time to apply these three kinds of consciousness to your working and personal life.

Internal: With a sense of calm and patience, you are able to see hidden opportunities where others may only see uncertainty, potential harm, or problems.

Intuitive: You are able to observe a situation and because you understand people and what they need you are able to make spontaneous decisions that come without much thought. Insight comes quickly. You are able to give people the help that they need before they are even aware that they need it.

Creative: Awareness is the meeting point between what you know and what is uncertain. When you are aware, you feel comfortable with uncertainty. You thrive on it because you see the unpredictability of it as a good challenge.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. October 24

    What a great post, Brooke. Getting more and more into yoga has definitely encouraged me to increase my awareness so I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.

  2. I really enjoy your last paragraph beginning, “So if you’re interested in better serving your customers or improving your life, I suggest…” I agree with all of this. I find that my life is simpler, happier, more relaxed, more complete etc when I am unplugged and take my blinders off.

  3. What a refreshing post. Too often I see people who are so glued to their phones, iPods, laptops, that they miss what’s happening in the world around them. Everyone could use a good “unplugging” every once in awhile.

  4. October 31

    I just drove by Sotto an hour ago and did the “ah-ha”. It used to be a restaurant that I would frequent with my dad and now it was something “newish”. Good for you Brooke, for growing and moving forward. So happy you are happy doing what you love to do!

  5. […] not careful, I’ll get ahead of myself and think three paragraphs into the future. I’ll edit and hyperlink text in my mind that I haven’t even written down yet. I’ll gulp down an entire cup of tea […]

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