A Michelin Star ranking is one of the most respected and highly-sought recognition for the restaurants and hospitality establishments worldwide. Published by the French tire company Michelin in 1900, it started initially as a guide book for motorists throughout the country, then rose to fame as the trust-worthy source of information for restaurants, bars and cafes around the world. In 2017, it startled the gastronomic world when the Singapore’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Chicken Rice hawker received the prestigious Michelin star award, often reserved for the opulent and elites. So what are the criteria for breaking into the acclaimed ranking? There’s no better way to find out than sitting down with Peter Weltman, the famed sommelier who previously worked at two notorious Michelin-star establishments in New York: Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad Restaurant.

On the 17th of April, 2018, Swiss Alumni Association in Vietnam (SAAV) had the honor to host a private talk with Peter over the topic “Michelin Star Excellence: The Mentality, Tips and Tricks”, in partnership with the A – Au Vocational CollegeHTS – Hospitality & Tourism Solutions, and Korean-based JinJu Farm. Unlike any SAAV’s previous events, the seminar was organized within the demo kitchen auditorium of A – Au College, exuding a familiar sense of restaurant world and cozy atmosphere.

Around 7.00pm, esteemed event organizer and team member Soline gave a brief introduction about Peter and the reasons why this event came about. In a blue suit and casual jean (typical of a San Francisco guy), Peter hopped onto the stage with a big smile on his face. In his early 30’s, Peter charmed the audience with his witty humor, confidence, and the vivid story-telling of a writer.

Peter started off explaining about the history of Michelin star ranking, some exciting examples of unpopular Michelin-rated dining choices recently, and recount of his personal experiences at  Eleven Madison Park and NoMad. The audience was in awe observing the ins and outs of these pretigious establishments, unseen anywhere in Vietnam. Even by the world standards, these New York-based diners outperformed others with their professionalism and opulent settings.

Three key takeaways of Peter’s presentation about Michelin star establishments are: Authenticity, Empower, Educate. The worthy restaurants must offer an authentic dining experience, empower their staffs to perform the impossible and continuously educate them over customer obsessions.

Peter dived further into the topics with his “Michelin-star Restaurant’s 10th Commandments”:

#1 Understand Perfection

“Perfection is is a pursuit that will never be achieved, but it’s about paying attention to the millions of details along the way” – Will Guidara, Eleven Madison Park Restauranteur.

People often obssessed over perfection, yet it is an un-realistic goal. Peter suggests that restauranteurs should focus more on achieving Excellence in their operations and mindset. It also means “The devil is in the details” attitude. The Michelin star seekers tend to every details within the customer journey, and does it with rarely seen elegance.

Most of the Swiss-trained alumni can refer this ideal to the training days at their school. It almost brought a flashback to the moments where we first learned how to serve a table or make a bed. The obsessive attention to details, the exemplary Swiss traits for excellence pursuit, and other qualities that institutes Switzerland as one of the most desired places for hospitality education.

#2 Identity

Just like any global brands, iconic restaurants and hotels have their specifics that set them apart. Peter mulled over the idea of associating the company with a famous personality. Take for example the NoMad restaurant adopted the traits of eccentric British rock star David Bowie. All the restaurant settings shouts out David’s characteristics and takes the clientele on an exotic journey.

You ‘d better not only be good, yet different.

#3 Ownership

Great companies empower their staffs and encourage them to take ownership of their own work. Thus employees take great pride in what they do and feel in control over their job. It inspires better connection with their guests and over-the-top ideas for serving them better.

It also instills an autonomous leadership within the enteprise. People perform best when they can be themselves.

#4 Everyone is the Ambassador

Great training provides everyone in the organization with enough information and knowledge to share with their guests. It is important that the hostess knows the designers behind the amazing design of your restaurant, and the buser can recommend a good wine pairing with the meal.

Every staff should be a brand ambassador for your restaurant. It linked back to the No. 3, when people are empowered at their job. They are confident to perform their duties and well-informed to speak proudly of their enterprise, thus communicating your brand gospel to clientele.

#5 Find the YES

Be smart & creative. Provide your clients with alternatives in order to delight them. People will be amazed and happy when they see you care for their concerns and try your best to accommodate their likings. What will you do if your guest crave for a burger which your restaurant does not serve ? You go across the street to get it from the local burger joint. Nothing beats the guest satisfaction over your service.

#6 Test Your Staff

It is important to regularly test the knowledge of your staff, first to further enhance their knowledge, and secondly to create an urgency among them for never stop learning and upgrade themselves.

You can never be sure of your staff quality unless you put them through a test.

#7 Leverage All Talent

This point is interesting. As mentioned before, everybody perform best when they can be themselves. Know your employees and their other talents ouside work, maybe you can leverage on it and improve their workplace satisfaction. Peter was once asked by his supervisor to moonlight as the author of the restaurant cook book. He spoke fondly of the experience travelling to different suppliers across the state for the content. It was a jolly and unforgettable endeavour.

People may not remember what you do to them, but they will remember how you make them feel, for a very long time. Appreciative culture goes a long way.

#8 Give More Than Dessert

Anyone in for a treat ?

#9 Offer People What They Didn’t Know They Wanted

Listen deeply to your customers, create personal connection and deliver delightful surprises. Commonly known within the industry as “Beyond Customers’ Expectation”.

This is essential to delivering personalized service and creating customer loyalty, and a common trait across Michelin star awarded restaurant.

#10 “Make Legends”

One size fits all one. Hype focus on the individual.

Bonus: #11 Make It Nice. Or Make It Twice.  

All in all, strive your best for an excellent guest experience. And if you do not succeed at your first attempt, do it again.


Johnny Tuan Nguyen

Originally published on: http://johnnytuannguyen.com/saav-1