Written by Kristi Hamelryck Turner

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Saying you’re a “Brand Camp Virgin” at a conference that brings together professionals from human resources, marketing and operations doesn’t exactly sound “PC.” But that’s exactly why my inaugural experience was nothing short of incredible. This conference was all about having fun, joking, laughing, learning and getting energized about what we do! The presentations were by some of the most savvy, accomplished and charismatic people in the restaurant industry and well beyond. I was particularly blown away by Scott Stratten’s presentation, “QR Codes Kill Kittens”. Finally, I found a marketing soul mate that is as passionate as I am about ridiculous marketing that seems to bypass common sense and miss marketing rule 101 – consumers are people who hate to be marketed to and love companies that are interested in building relationships with them through authentic marketing.

The Summer Brand Camp tribe is made up of highly intelligent industry leaders sharing their passions and successes under the common desire to make a difference in this fabulous industry we all have the privilege of working in. The energy and passion sparked my imagination about what I could be doing, changing and impacting.

With a panel dedicated to front line employees, the heart of our industry, it was the perfect setting and our honor to present this year’s first annual #Tipworthy Award – a contest designed specifically to celebrate the “Tipworthiest” server, bartender or host in the industry.

Capture#Tipworthy is a movement focused on rewarding the restaurant industry’s front line workers. Summer Brand Camp tribe members know more than anyone that the front line team is the face of our restaurants and their efforts (or lack thereof) play a huge part in telling a restaurant brand’s story and creating a memorable experience for customers.

The front line panel, took me back to my own waitressing days. In 1988, I was a college student working as a waitress in Outback’s second store in Tampa, Fl. It was the beginning for this brand before the company expanded globally and added concepts like Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Roy’s. When I worked for Outback, it was a small family led by four brilliant restaurant entrepreneurs with a brilliant concept and a passion to own their own restaurant chain.

There is something truly magical about being a part of the original crew that opens a new restaurant and even better, a restaurant that was at the brink of becoming one of the top fast casual global brands. There was so much opportunity, several of us grew from waitress to trainer to bartender in those early years at Outback. Along the way, I learned how to work with all types of personalities and handle difficult situations on my feet. Looking back, I realized it was the ultimate in customer service training and cross functional team collaboration. Your words, your service and your body language have to show positivity and represent the brand, regardless of what may be happening in your personal life. Your relationship with the kitchen guys, bussers, hostess and bartenders- all had an impact on your service level and your tips.

CaptureIt was challenging to give the over-the-top service to every customer, every shift, every interaction- but just like Marcos, the first winner of #Tipworthy server of the year, if you just do it- then you are rewarded. His work ethic, values and great service are the qualities of amazing front line service- and that’s what #Tipworthy is all about.

So, when you go out to eat, today, tomorrow or next month, remember to give some extra thanks to your servers, bartenders, hosts in the industry. Tell their manager when you have great service, tip them a little something extra or write a note praising them. Even better, go on social media and tell the world what you think of their service and their restaurant. Let’s take care of our own. Use the hashtag #Tipwothy so we can call listen in and add some more praise to the wonderful front line workers in our industry.

Then let’s all answer the Summer Brand Camp calling – let’s make a difference in this world. Reach out. Have some conversations. Challenge the status quo. Think differently. Be better. Do more. Spread some love.