A little over five years ago I decided to move to Chicago. I found an apartment and picked my move-in date. In my new life, I knew I wanted to work for myself so I chose serving over the office manager position I held in Indianapolis, or the woefully underpaid life of a journalist for which Indiana University had prepared me. Since there was a restaurant on the same block as my new apartment, I called and asked if they were hiring. The man who answered laughed and said “We haven’t hired anyone in 10 years.”
I hung up with feminist-fueled ire, thinking he was pretty full of himself. I mean, who’d ever heard of Gene & Georgetti?
Doh.Â Â Â
It didn’t take me long to understand how ignorant I was and why. After moving to Chicago I obtained a serving job at another steakhouse (after an extensive interview grilling me on my knowledge of the difference between a porterhouse and a t-bone, sirloin and strip cuts, and what the main varietal is in a chianti), and more nights than not I’d walk home early because business was slow and I’d pass by G&G’s still-lit windows. I’d see an older gent wearing a crisp white button-down shirt with a napkin thrown over his shoulder gesturing animatedly as he entertained his guests. Besides the nightly visual, my regulars would talk about their meetings that took place at G&G, and I’d read about the storied restaurant and how local politicos used it as a meeting place. Once I was early for lunch with a friend who’s a regular, and was shown to his table – yes, he had a table. When he arrived his drink was offered automatically. I also learned quickly that celebrities dine there frequently.
This week’s Crain’s Chicago Business offered up some reasons for Gene & Georgetti’s longevity in an industry that seems to delight in squashing independents.
Their servers are professional waiters. They’re not actors or college students or entrepreneurs. They’re waiters.
As often as waiters/waitresses/servers are maligned is almost as often as they’re underestimated. A good server must be articulate, intelligent, intuitive, attentive and organized. Not only must a great server acknowledge guests’ stated requests, this professional must also anticipate any future needs or desires. A server in downtown Chicago must be the quintessential salesperson for you to purchase more than you anticipated, but for you to leave like you got exactly what you wanted.
When taking care of a celebrity there are even more requirements and hazards. Mainly, don’t be star-struck. I’ve taken care of a few. You treat this person who is recognized by the majority of people they pass on the street or who are dining with them as just another Guest. Capital G.
That’s the key to their success. In the Gene & Georgetti world, and in most restaurants of this caliber in Chicago, you treat celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Basically, everyone is treated with respect, dignity and deference. And hopefully, servers are treated the same.
Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin