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 bit Eric 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 you're dealing with an auto mechanic or 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 "The Today Show." He 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 get advice from Eric. Here's what he considers the essentials of great hotel service and, quite the opposite, the ugly ways that hotels cut corners.
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 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.
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; Penner-Ash Pinot Noirs from Oregon; Restaurant Latour at Crystal Springs Resort in New Jersey; élan Restaurant in NYC (whose 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.
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; 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; flight attendants who let this nonsense happen.
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; a count's castle turned Algarve 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 prefers at Northern California's laid-back, Pacific-facing Sonoma County to busy Napa County. Of its 450-plus wineries, Eric chose the 11 best Sonoma wineries for touring and tasting. And he calls Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary Sonoma County's superstar spa.