Jeff Ruby’s Leads With Hospitality

My seven-year old niece, Nora Jane, asked me what the title of my next book would be.  I told her, “Lead With Hospitality”.  

Her brother, my nephew, Henry, piped up immediately and said “Jeff Ruby’s!  Write about Jeff Ruby’s.  They’re a model of hospitality.”

Here’s a quick story about why Henry is absolutely correct that Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Lexington, KY Leads With Hospitality. 

For a Christmas gift, my dad took our immediate family out for a fancy dinner at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Lexington, KY.  Our special guests for the evening were both eleven-year old, Henry and seven-year old, Nora Jane. 

It was a special night for them, as they got to dress up in their finest holiday attire and dine with the grown-ups in what turned out to be one of the most hospitable dining experiences we’ve ever experienced together.

They Made Us Feel Welcome

The greeting is often everything when it comes to setting the tone for an experience.  The hostesses, upon arrival, met us with smiles, checked our coats and hats, and guided us directly to The Wildcat Room in a quaint area of the brand-new restaurant which is less than a year old.  As if we were aboard a Disney cruise ship, the servers knew Henry’s name.  

While explaining the menu, John, our lead server, directed his attention to Henry first, and Nora Jane second.  He methodically explained the history of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouses, Mr. Ruby’s Cornell Hotel School pedigree, and the success of multiple locations from Cincinnati to Louisville to Nashville.  

Of course, within minutes, our entire table was filled with fresh sourdough bread, Pellegrino, wine, and appetizers.  With each trip back to the table, John and his team, served Henry and Nora Jane first, and the ladies second; always checking in with my dad, the head of our family, before heading back to the kitchen.

We felt so welcome.

They Made Us Feel Comfortable

Henry and Nora Jane ordered 8 oz. petite filets.  However, John made a special trip back to the table to check with their mother (my sister); confirming the 6 oz. filet from the children’s menu would suffice. To make sure they felt even more comfortable, John recommended a nice fruit cup and a special order of fries, for some comfort and familiarity to balance out the fancy setting.  Henry and Nora Jane were excited about the fries, but the rest of us may have been even more excited to grab a fry or two as well.

I stood up to take a few pictures of Henry and Nora Jane in The Wildcat Room.  As I finished taking the first picture, we were immediately surrounded by not one, but two restaurant managers, asking if we’d like to go on a tour of the restaurant.  Before the managers took us on a private, guided tour of the restaurant, they first let Nora Jane and Henry pose for a picture while holding an actual football from a 2018 Kentucky Wildcats football game in which the Cats defeated the Florida Gators.

The managers took us through the restaurant, allowing the kids (and me) to take pictures of everything from the fresh sushi and seafood in the display case to the beautiful WILDCAT BLUE piano up on a stage above the bar in the lounge to a private room called The Breeders Room.  In the Breeders Room were actual silks worn by jockeys in the Kentucky Derby, pictures from historic Churchill Downs and Keenland Racetracks, and collectors Derby glasses from Kentucky Derbies gone by.  

We felt so comfortable.

They Made Us Feel Important

When it was time for dessert, Henry and Nora Jane wanted some ice cream.  John not only confirmed sure, they could both have some ice cream, but also invited them back into the actual kitchen to construct their own ice cream sundaes!

Already feeling welcome and feeling as comfortable as they would in their own home, now the kids felt important.  Because the kids felt important, the rest of us felt important.  

Henry and Nora Jane were whisked away from the table as John paraded them through the restaurant and into the back where the magic happens – the kitchen.  Chefs and the culinary teams in the back welcomed the kids into their space and allowed them to scoop their own ice cream into their bowls.  As if that wasn’t enough, when they returned to our table with their bowls, here came a tower of sweet goodness – sprinkles, cookie crumbles, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and several other artfully crafted ice cream sundae accompaniments.  

They constructed their sundaes and ate them, bite by bite, but not before they watched as yet another Jeff Ruby’s staff member craftily put together an order of bananas foster tableside. With each step in the process, the bananas foster architect spoke directly to Nora Jane and Henry, teaching them how to make bananas foster while entertaining them as the flames jumped off his pan right before our eyes.

It was no surprise, as we were finishing up our final bites of desert and sips of wine, Henry looked up and asked Pops (his grandfather, my father),

Can we come to Jeff Ruby’s next year?

Pops didn’t skip a beat,

Yes sir.  Mark it down. We’ll come right back here next year for a Christmas dinner.”

Thanks, to John and the team at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, in Lexington, KY.  You made our family feel welcome, comfortable, and important.  

We’ll be back.

Our family now has an emotional connection to Jeff Ruby’s, the brand, and Jeff Ruby’s, the experience. That’s what we’ll tell stories about, and it’s also why we’ll return, time and again.

If you’re a leader of teams or strive to become a leader of people, remember that before anyone becomes inspired or motivated to do anything, they first must feel.  

When you lead with hospitality, treating your teams as well as the team at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse treated my family, you’ll spark emotional connections with your team. You’ll soon see them put for their best effort and deliver their absolute best for you and for your team.

Once you master the art of making others feel welcome, comfortable, and important, you’ll be well on your way to:

  • Transforming groups of people into high-performing teams of people
  • Turning ordinary jobs into meaningful work
  • Brining your vision for success to reality

Lead with hospitality.