Service Arts


World-class customer service arts advice and training for restaurant and hotel owners and managers plus servers — for over 25 years.  

Service Arts

Service Arts.

And “Why should I choose you?” – is a question every customer asks – usually subconsciously – but which few marketers bother to deal with in their messages. I was prompted to discuss it by something one of my clients said.


Milly works for a high-end hotel here in NYC and was interested in how I train front-line service workers to give a damn about their work. (not just go through the motions, which is easy, but actually, care about providing a uniquely individualized service experience). 


I sent her a copy of a customized ‘steps of service’ card I put together for a hotelier last year.

(A ‘steps of service’ is a sort of cheat sheet front-line service workers carry around with them and can be referred to as a friendly reminder).


She thought it “a great example of an engaging piece of information for an area in which it is often very hard to differentiate.”


Service Arts, in her opinion, is something ethereal. Either you have it or you don’t. Theory or practice. (Well, I have spent the last 29 years – at the sharp end – and on the front line – in the trenches). 


I was pleased, of course – we all like a little praise – but I thought I’d talk about what she said a little, with a simple hint.


So here is a helpful hint for you: always make sure you differentiate yourself. 


One man, Rosser Reeves, built a huge advertising agency by finding and promoting a kind of differentiation: he called it the USP – the unique selling proposition.


Rosser’s idea is simple: find one benefit nobody else could offer and hammer it down relentlessly. Of course, that may be easier said than done.


As Milly told me, many hotels are similar. But there are many ways to skin a cat. For example, you may not have anything unique, but there may be something you do that others also do – but don’t talk about. 


A good example is perhaps Smirnoff Vodka. It couldn’t celebrate its flavor, but it could boast about its lack thereof. Vodka left no trace, so this eventually inspired the “Smirnoff Leaves You Breathless” campaign. Were they the only firm offering vodka that left no trace? No. They were just the only ones saying so.


What’s more, if others start talking about the benefit you’re promoting, they can even end up selling for you. That’s because you’ve fixed that particular benefit in people’s minds and they associate you with it.


And the more reasons you give, the better you do. So here’s a list of 21 things to get you thinking:


Are you unique? 



Better value? 


The most trusted?

The friendliest? 

The first? 

The top seller? 

The most tested? 

Give quicker service? 

The most advanced? 

The latest? 

The oldest? 

The most loved?

The one experts prefer?

The most reliable?

More fun?

Sold in a special way?

Easier to deal with?

More helpful?


This may be harder for you in your business than it is for outsiders because you’re too close to everything. You either don’t notice things or ignore them. I guess that’s one of the chief reasons for coming to people like me. You see, Service Arts isn’t a static list of do’s and don’ts – commands and the like that you train your people with. That doesn’t work. Never has, and never will.


I ignite their fire for your firm by helping them understand what makes YOU special. This is about you, NOT ME as a Service Arts coach and trainer. 


Coupled with helping your people understand the tenets of a successful sales system and how to elegantly speak to your customers about what you have to offer – increasing your sales and profits as a result.





P.S. – If you feel you are too close, and you are missing out on opportunities to improve your sales and profits, and you would like me to help you, to address a specific challenge you face, why not get in touch.


P.P.S. – Most firms, I regret to say, see Service Arts training as a cost, not an investment. But thank God, a rare few who measure understand Service Arts is one of the best investments you can ever make.


If you’re one – and I suspect you are or you wouldn’t be reading this – what an opportunity for you!


Some years ago I discovered there is a direct relationship between how much people spend on their service arts training and their profitability. Those who spend the most, as a rule, do the best. Those who spend the least do the worst.


P.P.P. S. – One more thing.  For more years than I care to contemplate, I have tried to determine what makes messages sell. Not based on my opinion but on all the available research and testing.


So here’s a checklist based on what I learned you must look for if you want your people to sell intelligently…


A quick creative Service Arts (and sales) checklist


1. The opening must quickly offer or clearly imply a clear, strong benefit.

2. Is everything instantly clear? If it’s funny, clever, or obscure – beware.

3. Unless you give every sensible reason to buy, answer obvious questions, and overcome all reasonable objections, you’ll lose sales.

4. Is what you sell fully and clearly described?

5. Is the tone right? Don’t be funny about serious things (e.g., charity, business, or money).

6. Show it to someone uninvolved, preferably a likely prospect. Ask if they understand it – and if they would buy.

7. Do you prove your claim is true? Testimonials? Independent figures?

8. Do you ask firmly enough for a reply, and tell people precisely what to do? Repeat your arguments at that point.

9. Is the coupon, order form, or request to reply big enough, clear, simple, and easy to use?

10. Read your sales stuff aloud. Does it sound like someone talking? Good!

You may find using this checklist a bit of a bore. But a lot less boring than stuff that flops.

Because if you want to sell, you’ll find that some, perhaps many of your messages miss one or more of the points above. And if you look out for them I promise you will improve your results – perhaps so much it will surprise you.




Don’t Treat Your Customer Like This. The late Roger Millington was one of the funniest, most able copywriters and business minds. And he had a saying many marketers would do well to remember.


It was: don’t treat the customer like a ****.


You can fill in the asterisks to suit yourself. They probably stand for “clot”, “fool” or “idiot”.


Yet it happens far too frequently: often even firms that have always treated customers well fall by the wayside…


Since 2001, I have shown my Service Arts in workshops, seminars, and lectures an excellent example of a thank-you letter addressing me as “Valued Customer”.


This phrase, in fact, means precisely the opposite of what it says.


It means “even though you’ve been buying things from us for fifteen years we can’t be bothered to make a note of your name.”


Don’t use the phrase, whatever you do.


The great American merchant Julius Rosenwald, who built up Sears, Roebuck, and Co. to be the world’s biggest retailer said his ambition was to stand on both sides of the counter at once. (Now that’s Service Arts).


This is hard to do, but at the very least, I recommend the following three-part helpful hint which I first coined for a talk at Rutgers University in New Jersey some years ago:


– Respect your customer
– Stay close to your customer
– Use your imagination


And if you are enjoying these little hints, why not reach out to me at for more?


You’ll learn a lot more, a lot quicker. Here’s to Service Arts!


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About Me

Eric Valdivieso has over 25 years of sales and showmanship experience, including 5 years of film and theatre training and 9 years of table service, in high-paced and competitive environments. 

He helps restaurant and hotel owners and managers cultivate experiences that people talk about, and seek out. 

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Jonathan Tisch

CEO Loews Hotels & Co-Owner of the New York Giants

“Over the last few years, my family and I have had the pleasure to watch and enjoy, as Eric Valdivieso, nightly deliver a dining experience that is truly enjoyable. From the moment that we are welcomed by Eric at the door, to sitting at the bar and enjoying the suggestions and company to an amazing dinner, it is always one of our favorite nights. And Eric graciously and seamlessly choreographs this entire experience, without breaking a sweat. Eric truly understands hospitality, and what makes a great restaurant so great.”