John Dettori: Super Service
“I didn’t even know this part of the business existed,” Dettori says. “I had a roommate from college who was an area coordinator for Lackmann, and he said, I have a job for you if you want it. I worked at the Bank of Tokyo, which was very high end. I worked at the New York Stock Exchange, where I got to serve Martha Stewart after she rang the bell. After that I went to the Rockefeller Foundation, where I got to serve President Carter, Bob Vila and Yo Yo Ma. Then five years ago, I came to Tiffany’s, and they’ve wanted me to stay ever since.”
Dettori says it was his background as a chef that allowed him to help decrease Tiffany’s subsidy by $40,000 last year. Through changes in staffing and reconfiguring the menu mix, Dettori says he was able to help reduce the subsidy.
“Decreasing the subsidy was a lot about staffing changes and looking at the menu mix and reeling that in a little bit,” Dettori says. “When you cut back on staffing and on the menu mix you don’t want people to notice. Fortunately, I have a real culinary background so I’m able to switch things out without anyone really noticing. My chefs are able to do the same. Instead of using sirloin, we’re using hanger steak—things like that.”
Pedersen was also impressed with how Dettori decreased the subsidy.
“Because of the downsizing of the population at Tiffany & Co., we have seen an effect on our dining services, causing a reduction in customer counts,” Pedersen says. “Through redesigning our menus, combo deals being offered, cross-training our team members and watching overall costs, John greatly helped in the reduction in subsidy.”
Serving satisfies: Dettori says customer service comes naturally to him because of his many jobs in the service industry. He looks at mentoring as just another way he can provide service to a different customer: his staff.
“I just show the less experienced staff proper cooking techniques such as proper knife skills,” Dettori says. “It’s nothing formal. I hire people that I know have ability and then I’ll push them as far as I can. Everyone here was trained before I got here, but I have taught chefs how to do some manager’s skills as well, which is not always so easy with someone from the kitchen. I really enjoy that. I think these days people are afraid to give colleagues skills for fear of them taking their jobs. If I teach my staff then they will have the knowledge and the capability to move up.”
This love of mentoring plays into Dettori’s management philosophy.
“My management philosophy is to let people do their jobs,” Dettori says. “I hire them to do a job and I let them do it. I can guide them and show them what I think is most important, which is customer service and really good food, but if they’re not on board with that, they aren’t going to be as successful. I’m very fortunate that in all three locations I’m working with people who have been with the company for a long time; they have that Lackmann philosophy of outstanding customer service.”
Another successful aspect of Dettori’s focus on customer service is his promotions. Daily promotions such as noodle bowls, and themed days such as a Feast of San Gennaro have been very popular.
“Our biggest promotion is our monthly raffle,” Dettori says. “If a customer spends $5, they get a ticket. They can get as many tickets as possible and at the end of the month we have a drawing and they can win anything from a bicycle to an iPod. It’s interesting because it’s hard to do that type of stuff in the city because those customers are looking for a more relaxing atmosphere. So we try to cater our promotions to each location.”
Pedersen says Dettori’s customer service-oriented attitude is what really makes him a success.
“Whenever there are issues, problems or concerns John is always the first to volunteer to assist and resolve the problems quickly,” Pedersen says. “He works extremely hard to make sure his clients receive the special attention that they deserve. On a daily basis John is always working one on one with his front- and back-of-the-house team members, training them and bringing them up to the next level in which they can grow within our company. Our Tiffany & Co. clients are very excited about having John operate their dining services. The guest survey scores have gone up and the atmosphere of the dining experience has been nothing but extraordinary.”