What's a Service Guru? Meet Eric Weiss
More than a few luxury travelers know what great service is. It is rare but essential.
Rarer still: the ability to convey this essence to hotel service personnel. This is Eric Weiss's domain. He travels the world as a service consultant.
In Eric's words, "Great service means connecting with individuals as if they were the only person in the world, and doing it in a selfless way."
The travel bug it Hard Eric Weiss hard. He grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from upper Manhattan. By the age of 13, he had earned enough money delivering newspapers to travel through the United States on a teen tour.
The young hotel pro-to-be found that he liked the footloose life. One of his father's dental patients was the V.P. of the National Maritime Union. This gentleman made it possible for teenaged Eric to work on the S.S. United States during summer and holiday breaks throughout high school and college. (This ocean liner, now moored in Philadelphia, was one of the mid-20th Century's most famous cruise ships, and still holds some transatlantic crossing records.) "Traveling came to feel like normal life to me," says Eric.
After graduating from Boston University, Eric lived and studied in France for almost 10 years. Then he studied food, wine, and hospitality at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Eric was selected by Chef Roger Vergé as the first American to apprentice at Le Moulin de Mougins, his revered, three-Michelin-star restaurant on the French Riviera. (International celebrity chef Alain Ducasse started out in that same kitchen.)
Eric was then hired by Seagram Châteaux & Estate Wines in New York City. His job: to interest an exclusive restaurant and hotel clientele in Seagram's top-end wine portfolio. (How elite? It included Bordeaux legends like Châteaux Lafite, Haut Brion, and Petrus.) For a time, Eric was the sommelier at The '21' Club.
Over the decades, Eric went from being a service pro to a service guru. His current platform is his New York-based consulting company, Service Arts, which he founded in 1994. His first assignment was a series of service workshops for the hospitality industry, held at the then-new Four Seasons Hotel New York.
Eric's program got a lot of hospitality-industry attention. It led to a six-month term as Service Expert on CNN's Financial Network. Eric's topic: "getting the service that consumers deserve, whether from an auto mechanic, a doctor, a motel, or a five-star hotel."
Who says Eric is a "service guru;"? He didn't make that up himself. He has been called "Service Guru" by major media like CNN, The New York Times, The London Times, and Katie Couric.
But who needs a service guru? Eric has advised a number of blue-chip clients on how to improve their customer service. Among them are hotel companies (like The Ritz-Carlton, Trump Hotels, and Four Seasons) and financial services companies (like American Express and Goldman Sachs). Many independent restaurants and hotels around the world have hired Service Arts in order to work with Eric.
For over a decade, Eric's expertise has been requested by a certain famed residence in Washington, D.C. Yes, that one. He has advised The White House on wine selection, etiquette and service, and kitchen operation.
Since 2011, Eric has worked with tourism destinations in California to heighten their levels of service. He designed a well-received week-long program for Sonoma County's historic wine center, Healdsburg. Soon, other tourism hubs in Northern California, including Mendocino and Sonoma Counties and Carmel-by-the-Sea, followed with similar programs.
Places Eric recommends you experience: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Madeira first, then the rest of Portugal; In France: Claude Monet's home and garden in Giverny, outside Paris; Brittany on the Atlantic coast (stay at L'Hotel Carantec and visit Finistere (shown above); Corsica and Malta in the Mediterranean; Tahilla Cove, Ireland; St. Petersburg, Russia; In California: Sonoma and Mendocino, The Golden Door wellness retreat in Escondido, The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park; in New England: Massachusett's Berkshires (stay at Wheatleigh in Lenox) and Yankee Connecticut (stay at The Inn at Stonington and sail on the Connecticut River); anywhere you can watch Federico Fellini films like La Dolce Vita and Amarcord on a big screen
Places Eric isn't rushing back to: Las Vegas, Atlantic City, St. Maarten
Eric's must-tastes in France: seafood choucroute at Paris' Brasserie Bofinger; In Brittany: oysters harvested in Cancale strawberries from the Plougastel Farmers' Market, blue lobster marbled with foie gras and smoked eel at Restaurant Patrick Jeffroy in Carantec; foie gras from the Périgord region; Chateau d'Yquem, the nectar of Sauternes dessert wines; unpasteurized cheeses, all over France
Eric's must-tastes in the U.S.: wines from Morlet Family Vineyards in Napa;Aziza Restaurant in San Francisco; Penner-Ash Pinot Noirs from Oregon; Restaurant Latour at Crystal Springs Resort in New Jersey; élan Restaurant in NYC; its chef/owner David Waltuck founded the legendary Chanterelle; the sleigh ride dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana; sea salt-caramel gelato at The Gelato Fiasco in Maine; jumbo scallops with lardons and smoked-tomato vinaigrette at Swooner Restaurant in Stonington, Connecticut
Things Eric loves about travel: "meeting new people, then staying in touch with them for decades"; "finding out-of-the-way places that I can then share with friends;" "keeping a travel journal for the last 40 years so I can help others with their itineraries"
Things Eric loves about flying: being upgraded to business or first class (or even premium economy); flight attendants who really care about providing great service; unexpectedly great inflight meals ("most memorably, the time Glorious Food, a New York caterer, arranged my Europe-bound inflight dinner of caviar, Champagne, and lobster"); the ease of private jets: "you don't have to deal with security or an 'Occupied' sign"
Things Eric hates about flying that the airlines need to change: security lines (hooray for TSA Precheck!); dictatorial, insensitive gate agents; waiting for passengers as they fuss about stowing their luggage; passengers who take off their shoes, with no socks on; some even put their feet up; flight attendants who let this nonsense happen.
On Eric's bucket list: cruising Antartica on Seabourn; visiting Dumbarton Arms, "my wife's ancestral castle in Scotland;" Istanbul; Croatia (including rural Istria); Egypt (again); Asia (China, Japan, Vietnam, Bali); seeing the Galapagos' wildlife; singing with Roberta Flack.Eric's insider hotel stories: Mr. Manager, are you a five-star man or a four-star mouse? Eric on thelements of great hotel service; an open letter to hotels: Eric on the ugly ways that hotels cut corners; 7 real-life hotel horror stories and Eric's m.o.
for getting your hotel to make good on bad service; eric's entry in our story on travel writers' fantasy hotels: a dreamy French culinary getaway; a critic's description of an exquisite hotel on Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, Ladera Resort.
Eric takes a close look at the Algarve, the Portuguese coast that is Western Europe's vacation steal: Portugal's sunniest beach region and Western Europe's travel bargain: The Algarve; l; ajnAlgarve count's castle turned pousada inn (with a fab pool): Pousada Palacio de Estoi; a mansion hotel with Relais & Chateaux dining, on a perfect beach: Bela Vista Hotel & Spa.
Eric's in-depth look at Northern California's laid-back, Pacific-facing Sonoma County: why Napa, the NoCal vacation legend, has serious competition now from Sonoma County; Sonoma County has over 450 wineries. Eric chose the 11 best Sonoma wineries for touring and tasting; and of the multitudes of dining options, Eric selected the 11 best restaurants in Sonoma; Eric's not alone in calling Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary Sonoma County's superstar spa; a purely African experience on the "Sonoma Serengeti": Safari West; says Eric, the most deluxe way to see Sonoma County: high above on Wine Country Balloons; aA go-to getaway spot furnishing a gracious taste of Tuscany in sunny Sonoma County: Applewood Inn, Restaurant and Spa; a lovable B&B in downtown Healdsburg with luscious flower gardens, dreamy breakfasts, and a chocolate specialty: Camellia Inn; mid-1800s estate home with lovely rooms, acclaimed dining, and an aah spa: Kenwood Inn and Spa; a boutique hotel with a ranch pedigree, great masseurs, martini bar and splendid steakhouse: MacArthur Place; a gabled Victorian inn with five-star service and a noted NoCal kitchen: Madrona Manor; famed then for The Birds, now for oceanfront élan and fine dining: Bodega Bay Lodge; a rustic name for one of Sonoma's most sophisticated small hotels: Farmhouse Inn.