An Austin restaurant legend is gone but hardly forgotten.

Martinez Legacy

Longtime Austin restaurateur Matt Martinez died last week. With 50 years of continuous operation and a legion of devoted fans, his family's restaurant, Matt's El Rancho (2613 S. Lamar, 462-9333), is certainly one of the reasons Austin enjoys its reputation as a Mexican food mecca. The feisty little boxer with a huge heart and a natural talent for the hospitality business leaves behind a legacy of good food and friendly service -- and another generation of the Martinez family to make sure things are done the right way. We offer our sincerest condolences to the Martinez family.

Helpful Hot Tip

One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of my job is checking out new restaurants. When new places open, I make it a point to see what they've got going on in order to decide if and when we should review the new place and figure out who should be assigned to do the review. In the past few weeks, I've checked out three newish places, all restaurants that have invested a fair amount of time and energy in remodeling or redeveloping spaces to suit their new businesses. The buildings looked good, and the menus were inviting. However, in two out of three of the eateries, the service was abysmal and in the third, simply disappointing. But the common impression in all three places was that the restaurant owners had made no effort whatsoever to actually train their waitstaff! Effective training of front-of-the-house staff is a crucial element in the success of any restaurant venture and cannot be overlooked. In these three new places, mistakes were made in all the orders, servers knew little or nothing about the food on the menu, and they seemed to have no concept of the pacing of a meal or that pacing might be part of their job. In all three situations, our appetizers arrived and were almost immediately followed by the entrées, creating a dish pile-up on the table and rendering some or all of our food cold by the time it got eaten. All three dining experiences were awkward and uncomfortable because of the poor service. In each situation, I wished I had a copy of The Waiting Game: The Essential Guide for Wait Staff and Managers by Mike Kirkham, Peggy Weiss, and Bill Crawford to leave behind as a tip. As a matter of fact, I'd like to suggest that every restaurateur who has opened here in the past year get copies of this locally produced book for their waitpeople as Christmas gifts. It's available at all of our major bookstores, as well as on The improvement in service will help your restaurant's bottom line, your staff will make more money, and I won't want to run screaming from your restaurant ever again.

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Mike Kirkham, Peggy Weiss, Bill Crawford, The Waiting Game: The Essential Guide for Wait Staff and Managers, Matt's El Rancho, Matt Martinez

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