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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 3 weeks ago

Serve them well: Restaurateur out to leave all guests with 'lasting impression'

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Managing partner of upscale steakhouse awarded for her dedication to customer satisfaction and financial performance.

Christy Tolbert has come a long way in the restaurant business and learned a lot about what it takes to run a successful eatery.

Starting off making sub sandwiches at a well-known fast-food spot, the 47-year-old is now running the Capital Grille in Naples, a fine dining steakhouse chain owned by Darden Restaurants. Tolbert, who helped open the restaurant as an assistant manager when it debuted in Mercato about 11 years ago, was promoted to managing partner in 2018. 

As a result of the restaurant’s financial performances and guest satisfaction ratings, Tolbert was also recently recognized by the parent company with Diamond Club status. She's one of only six managing partners selected for the award out of the 58 other Capital Grille restaurants nationwide. 

During her time with Capital Grille, which offers a la carte steaks starting around $50, Tolbert has come to realize what it takes to keep customers coming in and back for more. “You have to care about your guests and do everything you can to make sure they have a lasting impression,” she says, “especially in Naples, where we have so many other restaurants.”

Tolbert says it takes a lot to make sure every customer feels welcome and “like they walked into their own home” and that a lot of it comes down to having the right staff.

“You can train somebody, but if they don’t have the passion and commitment, it’s not going to work,” she says. “They have to genuinely care about people. If they have all of that passion and energy, we can teach them everything else.”

Tolbert says the majority of her workday is spent dealing with customers and supervising team members, and her favorite business lesson is to “listen more than I speak.”

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