by David Klemt

Own Your Team’s Excellence

by David Klemt


Martinis at Bemelmans Bar inside the Carlyle hotel in New York City

If you and your team are producing an incredible food or drink item, don’t just be proud—make it your signature and own it.

As Chef Brian Duffy says during his demos and speaking engagements, people can eat and drink anywhere. Further, with just a handful of major food suppliers operating throughout North America, operators are using much of the same ingredients.

With that in mind, then, it’s crucial that operators and their teams innovate. Doing so ensures that hospitality professionals are staying current on consumer demands and trends; constantly seeking be educated and share information; and making sure their business stands out from others.

A commitment to standing out can also motivate a team to elevate their techniques. In turn, they can truly “own” an item. Creating something incredible—and replicating it order after order consistently—can become a brand and team’s calling card.

Does your kitchen team turn out a fantastic signature burger? Has your business become known as the place for chicken wings because of your kitchen team?

Has your bar team perfected the Margarita? Are they so good at crafting Frozen Irish Coffees that your bar is on Glendalough Distillery‘s radar?

When you identify what your team is producing at an extraordinary level, you need to make certain you loudly own it.

A Real-world Example

For a high-level example of what I’m talking about, we can look at the Carlyle in New York City.

This landmark Rosewood Hotel is known for delivering peerless service. However, a venue inside this sophisticated resort is known for a specific item.

Bemelmans Bar, an escape from the hectic streets of New York, is known for the Martinis the bar team produces. (They’re also known for their red jackets, but those aren’t for sale.)

It may be a bold statement considering the level of bars and cocktails in the city, but Bemelmans Bar (and therefore the Carlyle) owns the Martini in NYC. In fact, the bar serves a staggering 1,000 Martinis a night. More often than not, the Martinis that cross the bar or leave the service well are dirty or extra dirty. This has been the case since at least 2021.

So famous are the Bemelmans’ Martinis that the Carlyle sells an at-home kit, yours for just $395. It’s their latest promotion, though, that makes it evident Bemelmans and the Carlyle are taking ownership of the Martini.

Guests of the Carlyle can now book their Martini Retreat, a two-day experience that centers around their signature cocktail. If, perhaps, you think that $400 is a bit steep for their Martini Box, prepare for true sticker shock. The Martini Retreat experience starts at $4,895 for two guests.

However, the package is rather impressive and encapsulates the Carlyle’s ownership of the Martini. The Carlyle Martini Retreat includes:

  • a two-night stay in a Madison Room or Premier Suite;
  • a Bemelmans Bar Martini Box;
  • enrollment in the Bemelmans Master Martini Class (valued at $495), a 45-minute experience during which guests learn how the bar team crafts multiple variations of vodka and gin Martinis, and their new Madeline’s Vesper cocktail;
  • a two-course Martini lunch at Dowling’s at The Carlyle; and
  • a curated list of where to go to try other great Martinis throughout NYC, put together by Dimitrios Michalopoulos, bar manager at Bemelmans.


So, am I suggesting that operators create an experience that costs thousands of dollars? Well…I mean, if your concept can succeed with such a promotion, absolutely. If doing so would resonate with enough guests to make it feasible and become a steady (and impressive) revenue stream, go for it.

However, what I’m really attempting to drive home here is the power of becoming known for even a single signature item. And, hey—your item, in your market, may be the Martini.

Owning an item means screaming from the rooftops and hills that it’s yours. That your team’s version is the one to have; the one people in the know have to have. Taking ownership of your team’s excellence translates to becoming a destination for it, to driving repeat visits once people have experienced it.

Of course, with that ownership comes the responsibility to elevate all other elements of your business. Every other item on the menu must be produced and served at the highest level. This ensures the entire guest experience wows the guests, and the signature item is essentially a driver and the cherry on top.

It’s time to review what your team produces so well that your brand owns it. Should this introspection yield no results, it’s then time to see what other operators are known for and discover what item or items you and your team can improve upon. What’s something that works with your brand that you feel confident you and your team can own?

There’s power, money, and long-term success in something on your menu. It’s time to uncover it and take ownership.

Image: The Carlyle

KRG Hospitality. Boutique Hotels. Resorts. Properties. Consultant. Feasibility Study. Business Plan