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Friday, December 9, 2011

FSN Column (Importance of Power Names)

by Dan “Klecko” McGleno
August 1, 2011
in Dollar Diplomacy, Editorial

The Importance of Power Names

What’s in a name? Everything. Use it wisely.

ST. PAUL (Hickory Hut on University Avenue)

There I was, sitting in that corner booth with a pile of lunch in front of me.

Hickory Hut chicken wings are more than legendary, they can be hypnotic. The main component in my feasting delay was that I was with my Pastry Chef Debora Gilson, and she was grilling the counter staff as to whether or not the mac & cheese was made in-house.

After receiving her meal and joining me, I don’t remember if I shrugged my shoulders or rolled my eyes before commenting....

“Listen kid, you already ruined my street cred when you asked for a Ginger Ale at the Gopher Bar, but to ask if anything is made “in-house” at a place where everything is packaged in Styrofoam is ridiculous!”

I do love Gilson though. At times she has confessed to me that she can be a bit of a food snob, but, truth be told, I think she simply expects all food concepts to be run in a civilized manner that align with her perception.

Momentarily the two of us sat in silence, because our dining colleagues were eclectic enough to keep us entertained, but Gilson tired of this quickly and told me a story.

“Last night I went to Scusi with a friend of mine for dinner,” she began.

“We had each ordered drinks and decided what we were going to eat for dinner, but then our server came to our table and introduced himself. He said he had forgotten if he had formally introduced himself by name. I told him that it wasn’t really necessary since in an hour’s time I probably would forget it. I think I might have offended him, or maybe shocked him perhaps.”

I slumped into my booth horrified, exclaiming that this was just a mad fable that my friend was tossing down on me, but to my dismay, she began to laugh.

“Oh Danny, you can be so Midwestern,” she said. “Do you know what would happen to a server in New York or San Francisco if they pulled a stunt like that?”

When I confessed that I was uncertain, Gilson told me with complete confidence that they would be run out of town. Her analysis was justified with the following reasoning: “It’s not as if I am in a relationship with this person. To be honest, I want to know as little or nothing about them.”

Then with a wink in her eye she tells me, “In fact, half the times I go out to dine it’s to get away from life’s doldrums, not to add on to them. So you see, if a server is really good, they’ll understand that. They will explain the specials, tell me to watch out because my plate is hot and keep my drinks coming.”

I was stunned! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

When I revealed that I always sought out my server’s name and that I tried to be friendly with them, Gilson started to laugh even harder and then said, “Yes, I’m sure you do.”

OK, I’d had enough by this point, so it was time to settle matters once and for all. I pulled my Droid out of my pocket, placed it on speakerphone, and called our mutual friend, Kim Ode, who writes for the Star Tribune Taste section. After brief salutations, Gilson repeated her occurrence from the previous evening and asked if in her opinion, she had thought that some type of protocol had been broken. Ode didn’t even hesitate with her response—she pounced on it. “Oh I’m with you Gilson, I don’t like that whole identification thing either, and I think we are seeing the end of becoming friends with people we do business with,” she said.

The girls giggled together because they unified their opinions against a lout. What do you do when two of the women you love most are in disagreement with you? Worse yet, what do you do if you think they are miles off the mark? As always, Klecko likes to start at the dollar sign and work backwards.

What my friends have suggested is that working with nobility will bring these servers the highest wage possible, but I’ve learned long ago, that it is better to work smart, than work noble. Even people who respect you will underpay you if you leave the outcome up to them.

I don’t care if you are a server or an executive chef; the best way to increase your worth is to increase your personal visibility.

Just last week I was at a local media event at a Saint Paul restaurant, and for two hours all the Ketel One menu items were free. As you can imagine, everybody was drinking vodka. When my server set martinis down for my date and me, I tossed a ten spot onto her tray. The server literally knelt down, placed her hand on my forearm with a touch of compassion and asked, “You’re in hospitality, huh?”

When I told her that I was, she said she just knew it, because every other table in her station just ignored her when she brought their drinks. When it comes to your paycheck, never give people the benefit of the doubt. The story I just illustrated is one of a million scenarios where people will use an opportunity to deny you your entitlement.

Am I saying they do this intentionally? No, not at all.

The young woman who was schlepping vodka all night was serving people who were only thinking about themselves. That’s how life usually works. When a populace of any sort hears the word “Free,” they block out the server’s involvement, because after all, free is free right? In the world of hospitality, everybody is out for themselves. If you’ve been in “the show” for even a few short years, you know I’m telling the truth.

So, in addition to performing your tasks with moderate proficiency, what’s the quickest way to make more money? Simple. Exude confidence and have a power name. If you work in a field that hinges on communication, everything starts with a name.

If you’ve been reading my column for a while, most of you might agree that I have a pretty high opinion of myself, but if I presented these same thoughts with my Christian name McGleno, I wonder how much marketing traction I would have received when I launched myself. In fact, I believe in this so much that when my son was born, I gave him a completely different last name. When they came in with the birth certificate, I wrote Ty Pharaoh.

The nurse yelled at me and said I couldn’t do that. She was wrong.

I don’t want to be one of “those” dads, but my kid was the captain of the Highland Park football and baseball squads. The kid has over 700 pounds of trophies. He’s a natural born leader, he gets the opportunities that he covets, he doesn’t wait for them to come to him. Recently, when I sent him a message on Facebook, I noticed that he had changed his name from Ty to Tydus. When I asked what that was about, he informed me that the swag of his name was being diluted by a growing number of cowboys and rodeo clowns that have copped his brand.

The fact that he understands that all secrets to success start with your name, well, it makes me feel some assurance that he won’t ever struggle with a paycheck.

I am Klecko, and I thank you for your time.
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  1. I thought that was where this was heading!

    Rachel was originally Mildred. She gets it.

    I used to have over a dozen pseudonyms but none was powerful, except perhaps Byron Moon. That cat was crazy.