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Geoff Alexander
President, Wow Bao, and managing partner, Lettuce Entertain You, Chicago
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July 29, 2019 -- As the leader of Wow Bao, Lettuce Entertain You’s fast-casual Asian concept, Geoff Alexander always seeks to provide guests with a great service experience, often enhanced by technology. 

Since assuming leadership of Wow Bao in 2017, Alexander, with Chicago-based LEYE since 1993 and Wow Bao since 2009, has expanded the concept into a variety of nontraditional locations, including airports, sports stadiums, ballparks, hotels and university campuses, as well as starting a frozen retail line. He’s also overseen the chain’s transformation into a ready-adapter of restaurant technology, providing customers with access to emerging innovations, including self-order kiosks, a fully automated front-of-house experience, and robust mobile loyalty programs. However, he says there’s no substitute for good interaction between employees and guests -- but says it must exceed consumers’ expectations or the customer experience suffers. 

Alexander recently appeared on our podcast series, Fast Casual Insider, to share some thoughts on business and on life. And in a recent interview, we asked: 

What are your biggest service pet peeves?

I get frustrated when I know that we’ve taught our employees the correct way to serve guests, but they don’t practice it. For example, if we teach every employee to initiate the interaction with the guest, but then I see situations where the guest has to engage an employee, it’s off-putting to the guest and that less-than-stellar experience is hard to correct. 

What is your favorite part of your job and why?

I get the most satisfaction from hearing from or about an employee who is growing personally and professionally. It’s really gratifying to hear a team member say, ‘I just bought a house,’ or ‘I’m graduating,’ or ‘I just got hired to do what I’ve always wanted to do!’ At Wow Bao, we want to put our people on the path to achieving their dreams. Whether it’s helping someone put food on the table, finish school or follow their true passion, I’m proud to be able to help people grow. 

Describe a life-altering moment, or experience, that had a huge impact on your approach to life.

Fatherhood. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, coaching, and leading people, but when I became a father, those skills became sharper because I had to learn patience. I learned that teaching a 3-year-old is different than teaching a 7-year-old, and both are different from teaching an 18-year-old. Even though the person is the same, the lessons you share and teaching style you use need adjusting. Becoming a parent made me a better leader for this organization. 

To hear more of Alexander’s industry insight, listen to Fast Casual Insider: Geoff Alexander.