CHEF NOTES: Episode Two

BY ROB COTTMAN

I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet many people throughout my life and travels, and every single one of them has taught me something about getting where you want to go. In this current chapter of my life as Executive Chef of World Cafe Live, I am grateful to work alongside many people in both the hospitality and music industry who are working hard daily to stay sharp in their respective fields. Here you will find my interviews with some of those people, and an exclusive inside look behind the scenes of who we are and what we do and why we love it.

EPISODE TWO: Meet Lauren

The hours associated with being a chef can be challenging, so a friendly face to greet you when you enter the building is a real game changer to start the day. Guest Services Manager Lauren Shughart has been that person for me and for so many of our guests and artists.

IMG_2361RC: How do you feel a Guest Services department differs from a Box Office staff and what has been the impact for you and your team in transition from one to the other?
LS: A lot of other venues keep these departments separate but for us, being a small, independent venue, merging the two just made sense. For me, even as a Box Office Manager, it was always about making guests feel extremely welcome when they’re here for a show. So when I was informed that we were going to create a Guest Services department, I saw this as a chance to go even further when it comes to making our guests happy. The transition from one to the other has been pretty seamless and has only allowed for more opportunity and growth for each of my staff members.  I’m excited to see how this department continues to grow!

RC: Why is it important to surround yourself with the right colleagues and how have you been so successful in maintaining a great team?
LS: I’m a big believer in the saying “If you love the place you work, you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that’s honestly how I feel every day.  That’s not only because of the work I do, but the people that I’m surrounded by.  Everyone that works here has a passion for what they do and that makes me strive to do better every day. When I’m hiring for any position in my department, I’m not just looking for someone who wants any old job.  I’m looking for people who are truly committed to being here and I think that shines through with the team I currently have.

RC: What are the biggest challenges you face in managing guest expectations in a building with two simultaneous event spaces?
LS: We work in a really big, confusing building and pretty much every night of the week we’ll have two shows happening simultaneously. That can definitely be a challenge, especially on busy nights.  The biggest thing for me is making sure all our guests are well informed on the workings of our building before they even arrive.  The sending of this information helps a great deal when it comes to the guest experience the night of.  But no matter how hard we try to get the information out there, there’s still going to be people that arrive and have no idea where they’re going or even what band they’re here for.  So, by getting details out in advance to our guests it allows for me to give more attention to those folks who might not be as well informed.

RC: What about the music industry have you learned since you started working here that has surprised you the most?
LS: That even though the industry seems SO big, it’s really quite small.  We all seem to know each other in one way or another.

RC: What are your most common Frequently Asked Questions? What are a few of your favorite questions that have made you really have to turn on the charm?
LS: The most frequent question we get is “I’ve never been to World Cafe Live before, how does it work?”.  Which is my favorite frequently asked question because that means with every night and every new artist we bring through we’re bringing a whole new crowd of people who have never stepped foot in our building before.  OH and probably second most frequently asked question- “Does Standing Room Only really mean I have to stand all night?” (in case you were wondering – yes, it usually does).

I wouldn’t say these are my favorite questions but probably the most memorable:
“What time does Free at Noon start?”
“Can I bring a cot to the concert?”
And lastly, and definitely one I’ll never forget… “Didn’t there used be a Petting Zoo here?”

RC: What is the best story you’ve ever been told when someone is trying to get tickets for a sold out show?
LS: A lot of people tend to take the “my husband/wife is going to kill me for waiting to buy these.  Can you do anything?” route.  I’ve also been offered someone’s kidney before- which I politely declined.

RC: What are you most focused on for the venue in 2020?
LS: My team and I are focused on making 2020 a great year for the venue!  This is going to sound cheesy but I’m really proud of what we’re doing and what we continue to do so I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

RC: What new menu item from The Lounge is a must have for guests looking for recommendations?
LS: Crisp Salad with Ahi Tuna is definitely a go-to for me!

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