Strangebrew’s Phil Strachan introduces Diego Masciaga to us, yet another of his very far from bland connections and friends with whom he has recently had the very great privilege and pleasure of working closely alongside.
Nothing less than a true living legend in the hospitality and catering industry worldwide, Diego Masciaga is the acknowledged and much celebrated master of customer service excellence. Having firstly become a Master of Culinary Arts in 2000, he joined the Academy of Food and Wine UK Restaurant Manager Hall of Fame in 2009 and in 2010 he became only the third recipient of the Grand Prix de l’Art de la Salle, presented by the International Academy of Gastronomy.
In 2018, Diego received the very prestigious Cateys Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grosvenor House in London for his services to the catering industry.
In 2012, and perhaps his most outstanding accolade, Diego was honoured with being awarded the coveted title of Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana by the Italian government, the equivalent of a knighthood, for both his support of young people and his services to the hospitality industry. His full title is Cavaliere Diego Masciaga.
For the last 30 years, Diego was the front of house at The Waterside Inn, Michel Roux Sr and Alain Roux’s world famous 3 Michelin Star restaurant with rooms in Bray, having previously worked with the Roux brothers, Michel and Albert, at Le Gavroche and at Le Mazarin in London.
As General Manager and also Director, Diego
masterminded, directed and very carefully orchestrated not only the very important customer service element but indeed the entire customer experience at this globally famous riverside gastronomic Berkshire gem once described as a temple of gastronomy by near neighbour, Heston Blumenthal. Respected and revered by his peers worldwide, it is no exaggeration to say that in his industry, Diego Masciaga is truly regarded as a ‘first among equals’, the definitive blueprint for customer service and customer experience excellence.
On the surface, quiet, modest and unassuming with the most genuine humility, Diego is a fiercely passionate professional who is driven with steely determination and dedication when it comes to the delivery of customer service and customer experience excellence – something this charismatic Italian born master of his craft did with unerring consistency for over 30 years at The Waterside Inn as he ensured that he and his staff of over 30 delivered the finest service and most memorable experience to loyal customers, global leaders, film stars, celebrities and royalty alike.
Diego, you have now left The Waterside Inn, the employ of the Roux family with whom you have been very closely connected for most of your working life and have also made the bold decision to step out of the catering and hospitality industry in which you have worked for approaching 40 years. What prompted you to take this action?
I was extremely sad to leave The Waterside Inn and equally also to break my longstanding and very happy working relationship with the Roux family. They were very happy times and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities they gave me and the trust they placed in me. I am very proud of what I achieved there and of the legacy I left in terms of the staff I had trained and the guests I had pleased over these many years. However, I now see a new challenge and I want to share my knowledge and expertise much more widely.
Your skills are undoubtedly transferable and very much needed in other areas. I noted Michel Roux’s comment as you were leaving The Waterside Inn, when he commended you as having defined exceptional service across three decades and as a leader and brilliant teacher who had inspired hundreds of young people to pursue careers in hospitality throughout the world. He went on to say ‘A giant of his profession, I know that Diego will continue to share his knowledge and skills, since this is his true vocation.”
Yes, I do see sharing my knowledge and skills more widely as now being my vocation. As you and I have discussed many times over recent months, far too many businesses and organisations fail to deliver good or even adequate levels of customer service. But the expectation of delivery of excellence in customer service and customer experience is not something that should only be the exclusive domain of the restaurant or hospitality industry.
As you know from our recent discussions and work together, I couldn’t agree more, Diego.
Good customer service and customer experience is something that, either as a customer or client, we should rightly be able to expect in all fields offering a product or service of any kind. It does not matter if we are talking of a Wedding Planner, a Travel Agency, an Accountancy business, a Car Dealership, a Solicitor, a Department store, a Hairdresser, a Bank, an Airline, a Florist, a Supermarket or an Insurance Company. It makes no difference. Great customer service and the delivery of great customer experience is at the heart of every values-based business or organisation.
Once again Diego, I agree wholeheartedly but surely the issue is very much one of quality of leadership and of a clear understanding from top to bottom within the business or organisation of its purpose and its promise? As you said to me when we first met, everyone in a business or organisation has to realise that whatever their role is, they have more than just a job ie they represent that brand and the experience it promises and which it is expected will be delivered. Surely that is the very reason why the finest Michelin Star restaurants are so successful – each and every member of staff knows that they represent the brand and they work to deliver the customer experience promise? They know their purpose.
Indeed Phil. As you correctly observed, people don’t go to such celebrated restaurants just to eat the food – exceptional though the food prepared by the very best Chefs in the world and their highly skilled teams may be. They go for the whole dining experience, a very special experience, and all that entails. Similarly, people don’t just go to Disneyland for a holiday – they go for the whole Disneyland experience – for the Disneyland adventure. They can get a holiday anywhere. The simple fact is that the quality of customer service and customer experience excellence that is delivered by the world’s best restaurants can and should be delivered by any business and any organisation that wants to build competitive advantage, to be successful and to become the go-to leading brand in its market or market sector. In your terms, Phil – to stand out from the crowd.
Diego, as we have already touched on before, good leadership is of paramount importance as is also the importance of everyone in the business or organisation understanding and embracing its purpose, its ‘Why’ as Simon Sinek terms it. As I am constantly discovering, far too many businesses and organisations, and the leaders within them, don’t have a clear understanding of what they are and exactly what they deliver and therefore that purpose is not clearly communicated within the business or organisation. Many leaders are blind to what is actually happening at the ‘coalface’ and therefore what chance do their teams and employees have of representing the brand properly.
Quite right, Phil – and much of that is where you come in before I can do what I do best. As you have drilled into me over the last month or so, brands are promises consistently delivered and every business and organisation has to have a promise to be delivered against and expectations built on that brand promise for the experience to be judged against. In my book, consistency is excellence and great customer service and customer experience excellence is something that has to be delivered by everyone at every level in a business or organisation and at each and every touchpoint on a consistent basis. The consistent delivery of great customer service and customer experience leads to great levels of customer loyalty, profitability and sustainability.
And who would not want that, Diego? – surely every business leader needs to take a lead from yourself.
On the subject of leadership, leaders need to lead by example in order to create a culture where every team member and every employee at every touchpoint understands and is working to a clearly communicated shared purpose and is inspired and fully engaged to play their part in promoting and delivering the promised and expected customer service and a great customer/brand experience. In such a business or organisation, you will have business owners and shareholders who are pleased, leaders who are pleased, employees, staff and teams who are pleased and customers and clients who are pleased.
Service is pleasing – that is my philosophy. It isn’t a job – It’s a life. To serve is to please and pleasing leads to profit. That sounds like good business to me.
Thank you, Diego. I look forward to your talk at Blenheim Palace and I recommend everyone to read ‘The Diego Masciaga Way’ by author Chris Parker – It really is a very good and informative read full of nuggets of wisdom from the true master of customer service and customer experience excellence.
“The Diego Masciaga Way – Lessons from the master of customer service” written by Chris Parker is available on Amazon. For further information or to talk to Diego about how he could be of value to your business or organisation, please contact Bella Masciaga on 07578 206791 or Phil Strachan on 07770 753975.