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RAMW Hosts Second Annual “Five Star Service” Panel

May 6, 2015

Contact: Avery Lewis
Linda Roth Associates, Inc.               

Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington Hosts Second Annual “Five Star Service” Panel
RAMMYS Finalists Discuss the Region’s Restaurant Industry

Washington, DC (May 15, 2015)—On May 6, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) brought together local industry leaders for a conversation about the state of the region’s restaurant and foodservice community. The discussion, moderated by Rebecca Sheir, Host of “Metro Connection” on WAMU 88.5, offered insights into operator success in an increasingly competitive market.

Panelists included 2015 RAMMY Awards Finalists for Service Program of the Year including Ashok Bajaj (Knightsbridge Restaurant Group) and Mark Politzer (Bourbon Steak), as well as finalists for Restaurateur of the Year including Mike Isabella (Mike Isabella Concepts) and David Wizenberg (Passion Food Hospitality). Three of the panelists are finalists in both categories: Stew Newbold (Think Food Group), Frank Shull (RW Restaurant Group) and Maria Trabocchi (Fiola, Casa Luca & Fiola Mare).  Panelists weighed in on best business practices, how to maintain brand longevity, and what it takes to succeed in metropolitan Washington’s rapidly expanding restaurant community.

Washington as a Leading Dining Destination

Trabocchi praised the district for a commendable job bringing tourists to Washington. She pointed out that the region’s food scene has established an unprecedented reputation in recent years, which has visitors calling restaurants for reservations before they even book their trip—a new phenomenon. “DC has seen tremendous growth in the past 10 years,” stated Bajaj. “Local talent is growing and people want to open restaurants here more than ever.” Newbold agrees adding, “It’s been explosive. A lot of exciting local talent is emerging and they are looking to build an experience.” Dining out in the district has become about the entire experience, not just the food. “My parents’ idea of going out was going to a movie,” reflected Shull. “Now people go out to restaurants to be entertained.”

Maintaining Perfect Service

In an ever-evolving industry, maintaining perfect service is necessary in order to stay on top of the competition. The panelists agreed that top service can mean different things to different people, but Isabella pointed out that the goal is to get people to return and that “all begins with training.” Newbold touched on that point saying, “Five star service begins with the employee.” He concluded that money is not the primary motivator to most people; it’s “the sense of belonging and recognition— those are the things that resonate with the people we hire.”  Bajaj stressed the importance of perfecting service throughout the entire dining experience, “from the valet parking, to the host stand, to the table, until the guests leave.” Noting each guest has different standards and preferences when dining out, he followed up by saying, “ultimately, if you extend hospitality that’s what matters. If you bring them back you have succeeded.”


Everyone can agree that staffing is one of the hardest issues when opening a restaurant. “There used to be a wide enough pool, filled with the best of the best, and that is no longer the case,” stated Wizenberg. “Millennials are making the dining decisions – they want to work, play, and live all in a defined area so it’s hard to find staff wanting to work elsewhere.” Trabocchi pointed out that staffing “depends completely on the restaurant you have.” She commended her team as she understands the hard work they put in to “memorize details of a constantly changing menu.” Politzer pointed out that it helps to get creative with the staff, incentivizing them with contests and other prizes. “If everyone’s goal is hospitality, and we put our best foot forward, they will stay longer.”

The winners will be announced at the 33rd Annual RAMMY Awards Gala on Sunday, June 7, 2015, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For more information regarding the awards and sponsorship opportunities, email or call 202-331-5990.



Presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), The RAMMY Awards Gala honors the exceptional ability and accomplishments of the hard-working individuals and organizations of the region’s restaurants and foodservice community. Named the #1 Food & Restaurant event by BIZBASH Magazine for four consecutive years, The RAMMYS celebrate one of Metropolitan Washington’s greatest assets: its restaurants.

Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) is the regional trade association representing restaurants and the foodservice industry in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. Established in 1920, RAMW is an advocate, resource and community for its members. The Association works to promote and sustain the growth and development of the industry while providing its members legislative and regulatory representation, marketing and small business support, programming and events. RAMW strives to serve its members with professionalism and integrity, and provide them the training, education and support they need to grow a successful business.