5 Tips From Hillstone Restaurant

BrightGauge now has an office in Coral Gables which is about 100 yards away from Houston’s (or Hillstone now) which is great for business meetings but not so great for my waistline.  

Ever notice how Hillstone is always packed? Even when the economy is supposedly ‘struggling’ and people are ‘cutting back’, the line at Houston’s is out the door. Most of my experience comes from the location in Coral Gables, but I’ve also visited at least 5 or 6 of them across the country.

If I want to have lunch there on a weekend I try to get there by 11:45am to avoid waiting for a table. On a Sunday night if you don’t want to wait, better get there before 5:30pm or else “forget about it” (to quote Donnie Brasco)…

Last week I took special notice to what makes Hillstone so successful and we can all apply these lessons to our own businesses.  And I would hire the operations manager from Houston’s to run any of our businesses in a heartbeat. No interview required. Think about it…

ouston’s doesn’t waste anything they don’t have to. When you get seated all there is at the table is a rolled up napkin with a fork and knife inside for each person and salt, pepper, and sugar. There is no bread brought to the table, actually they don’t serve bread (that’s wasted cost), instead they immediately offer you appetizers (which isn’t free). If you ask for water, they don’t bring you ice, you have to ask for the ice. You have to ask for ice…

Team Work: All the staff members work as a team with one goal of ‘taking care of the customer’. Any time you visit their restaurant you will interact with 2, 3, 4 or even 5 waiters and waitresses. No matter who you speak with and place the order with, it will get done. And there is a high probability that it will not be the same person that delivers what you ordered. Also, they know you’re going to wait at the bar and probably grab a drink, or maybe a delicious spinach dip, so when your table is ready, they transfer the tab over so you can get right to your table. No greedy bartenders wanting to keep the tip at the bar.

Defined Scope: They have a tight scope of services. Houston’s does not sit parties greater than 8 people, unless of course you can fit in a 6 person booth. They don’t take parties larger than 6 people because large tables take too long and they can’t turn over as fast, meaning they can’t serve as many people which means less revenue.

Repeatable Processes: They have a tight scope of procedures. Ever try to get a table for 4 persons and only 2 of you are there? NO CHANCE. How about calling in a reservation? Like Donnie said, “forget about it”. You can call and find out how long the current wait time is for a table and they’ll seat you once everyone is there.

Transparency: They are fully transparent; you can walk through the kitchen/serving area any time to see the action. They even have mirrors over the kitchen so you can see their cooks working on your food.

I love going to Houston’s and will always be a loyal fan. My message to them: Never change what you do because you’re an example for everyone. And selfishly: The firecracker swordfish special is not on the menu often enough, I love that dish.

Being OK with your own Mistakes

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with close friends and family and one short conversation really struck home with me.  I was chatting with a friend who is an Investment Banker in NYC and who works many, many hours a week.  He, like many other in his field, is a bit burnt out... Read more