Never Ask a Yes or No Question

It's Thursday, so time to give you a throwback blog to one of my favorite stories from early on in my career when I was working at the Hyatt hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. I had just been promoted to work as an Assistant Manager of the coffee shop at the hotel, Cascades.

This is a “What Else?” story about my experience.

I was working as a management trainee and when I got my promotion to Assistant Manager I didn’t realize I had to be at work at 6:00am. That meant getting up at 5:00am– the time I usually came home at age 23.

The job at Cascades proved to be one of the most difficult, most intense posts I’ve ever had in my life. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn to go down to the hotel, and there would already be 300 guests lined up, waiting to get in for breakfast when I got there. Every morning was an overflow crowd, it was crazy busy.

And I was responsible for making sure that everything went smoothly.

While my work at Cascades was invigorating, I dreaded having to wake up so early every morning. I could never get used to that.

But I couldn’t quit. That was not part of my DNA. Rather, I had to find a way out.

“How can I get promoted?” I wondered. “How can I get to a higher position?”

What Else can I do for Hyatt?

“In my position, I can’t bring more clientele into the hotel,” I thought. “But is there another way I can make more money for the hotel?”

Then it hit me—increase the average check price.

Restaurants are always looking to grow the average amount of money their diners spend. Usually, they do this by pushing wine and other alcoholic beverages, and dessert. But those weren’t options for a place that served so much breakfast; I was going to have to be more creative.

Often I would end up bussing tables if I wasn’t behind the counter and when I would be pouring coffee refills for a guest I realized I had a hand free. That’s when the impressive fresh-squeezed orange juice maker we had at Cascades gave me an idea.

Why not ask if someone wanted coffee or orange juice instead of if they wanted coffee?

I had just learned about the “Yes or Yes” theory at a sales seminar: Never ask a person a Yes or No question when it could be Yes or Yes instead.

I put a big display of oranges outside the entrance to the restaurant, and while guests were lined up to get in, I had a waitress ask each customer if they would like coffee or juice. As it happened, most people said “Both.” Who doesn’t want coffee and juice in the morning?

Well, the average check price went through the roof. Pretty soon, the coffee or juice proposition became standard operating practice at all Hyatt coffee shops—along with the welcoming display of fresh oranges. Three months later I was given my second promotion in six months.

Today’s post is an excerpt from my most recent book “You Gotta Have Balls: How a Kid from Brooklyn Started from Scratch, Bought Yankee Stadium, and Created a Sports Empire.” Click here to purchase a copy to learn about my experiences in business and how my philosophies have propelled me to the top of the sports and marketing worlds.

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