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October's Featured Speaker: Darren Denington, Service With Style Hospitality Group

Darren recently presented at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show in Orlando on building a winning hospitality team, leadership traits required for success in the hospitality industry and how to drive revenue into your restaurant.

It's in My Blood

I can still remember Christmas dinner at 11 years old, my favorite meal of the year and I couldn’t eat fast enough.  My Mother had cooked an incredible meal and I found myself, for the first time, being helpful for part of the day in the kitchen.  As soon as I finished my plate I jumped up and started pre bussing and refilling drinks.  This launched me into the exciting business of hospitality and I haven’t looked back for the past 33 years. 

I still truly enjoy hospitality and for the past five years I have been writing this blog called “It’s About Service”. I have always felt service was a part of me and even named my company “Service With Style” where we have built Service into our core values for the past 17 years.  My very first company was started in Niagara Falls in 1990.  Yes, it was also called Service With Style / Catering.

With that being said, I have major concerns with our industry service standard.  Last week I was in line at a favorite morning meeting café.  I have grown fond of the yogurt parfait.  I noticed the cooler was empty just before I arrived at the cashier.  I asked if they had any more parfaits.  The cashier leaned around the counter, looking past me at the cooler and said “No we’re out”.  I had been really looking forward to one so I asked if they could make one for me.  It’s not as if the 4 people working behind the counter were busing serving the zero guests behind me.  “Sorry, we’re out of them” was the response I received.  As I stepped over to fix my tea and wait for my bagel to be toasted, another employee asked me how I was.  After a friendly response I quickly mentioned my surprise that they were out of the parfait.  She just smiled and shook her shoulders. Halfway through my meeting she brought out 8 parfaits and placed them in the front cooler.  They had the opportunity to make it up to me at this point but didn’t.  A missed opportunity for them.

Completely on the flip side of service, I forgot my tablet charger in my room when we were checking out from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  When I arrived the next day to check on it the front desk attendant took it upon herself to walk all the way back to the room, check under the coffee table for my charger and return it to me.  Walt Disney himself would have been proud of this employee, she had close to a 10 minute walk to the room to search for the charger.  The previous day, my wife Shelli and I took our daughter Kyra for a birthday brunch at Whispering Canyon Café at Fort Wilderness Lodge.  If you are ever in the Disney hotel area, I truly recommend a meal and a laugh here.  The third blog I ever wrote was inspired by the same restaurant - “Can I Please Have Some Ketchup?”  The same experience is still there.  The neighboring table requested ketchup and very quickly, 9 bottles were delivered.  Our server found out it was our daughter’s birthday, so she grabbed her and took her to the middle of the restaurant and they both ate a cupcake and danced to the music while the crowd was singing.  The experience here is always fun and unique.  Every time I think of that, I will smile.  Somehow Walt Disney has mastered something I felt when I was eleven years old.

It is with great excitement that I close this article of “It’s About Service” for today. After a recent call with my good friend David Scott Peters, where, you guessed it, we were talking Service.  We came up with an idea so crazy it just may work.  We felt that the two of us should team up and put our names behind the great operators (you know, the ones that are doing it right) and create a program that gave the recognition that is so greatly deserved.  All I can say is you’ll have to EARN IT!!!

Check out what we created at

Just in case you want to “Ketchup” on one of my first blogs:

More about Darren Denington:

Darren S. Denington, CFBE has been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years. With a degree in Food & Beverage Management and being a Certified Food & Beverage Executive, he understands the importance education plays in the hospitality industry. Darren has an extensive background in the restaurant industry, including Owner, Executive Chef, Food & Beverage Director, District Manager and General Manager. His experience also includes an extensive background in banquets and catering. His understanding of management, operations and startup has taken him across the country to speak to companies seeking his expertise. Darren has presented his expertise at over a hundred seminars across the country including most of the nation’s most popular tradeshows. During the past fifteen years, Darren has owned and operated a secret shopping and restaurant coaching company, Service With Style. He has focused on guest services and employee training, helping over a thousand establishments nationwide to understand their guests’ perspective. Client results include: lowering liquor cost from 3-5%; increasing customer loyalty up to 25%; and reducing employee turnover as high as 60%. In 2005 Service With Style was awarded the Business of the Year. In addition to running a successful secret shopping company Darren has given over 70 presentations to Restaurant owners, managers and employees across the country over the past year. He works extremely closely with operators helping them directly to implement the right systems he improve the establishments.


September's Business Builder: Stop the Bleeding Now
August Business Builder - LeaderCHOICES - Unlocking Your Leadership Potential
July Business Builder - The Big Money Maker: An Intro to Full-Service and Off-Premise Catering
June Business Builder - Managing Generational Conflict
May Business Builder - Top 5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Video
April Business Builder - How to Lead Your Brand Into Menu Labeling
March Business Builder - 5 Best Practices to Improve Morale in Your Restaurant

February Business Builder - Four Steps to Build Your Network to Increase Your Networth by Kathleen Wood
January Business Builder - Defining Your Restaurant's Customer Experience by Joel Cohen
November Business Builder - Gluten-Free Menus Can be a Challenge - Or Not
October Business Builder - Understanding How Far in Advance to Initiate the Lease Renewal Process
September Business Builder - The Key to Running a Profitable Restaurant by David Scott Peters
August Business Builder - Improve Your Menu Engineering by Mark Kelnhofer
July Business BuilderRestaurants that Cater - Set a Minimum to Make You Money by Sandy Korem
June Business Builder - 5 Leadership Traits Required for Growing Restaurant Business by Darren Denington