For those who want to know everything.

Kelly Liken

Restaurant Kelly Liken

Location: Vail

Check out their website: Here

Key Words: Team, Calculation, Care, Consideration, Synchronicity.

For a good time, (make reservations): HERE

Oh, Ba-Zing!  This team is the epitome of “the army of competent servers” that I refer to when I talk about team service.

This is an iamWaitress kind of restaurant.  I felt all cozy and warm and at home my entire shift

All excellent armies are well oiled and organized machines, right?  So when does a service team take the time to organize?  Before the invasion, at the line up of course!

Line Up


I’ve seen line ups before and I’ve eaten my fair share of family meals, but this line up was by far the best one I have ever attended.  The entire meeting took about 30 minutes. There wasn’t a moment that wasn’t fully utilized.

Sarah, the cheerful and organized PR woman (whose responsibilities include event planning and marketing) went over the guest list for the night.  She let the team know who was coming in and all the personalized service notes for these guests . After this the advanced Sommelier, Jeremy, jumped in and went over one of the bottles of wine on the menu.  By “went over” I mean his presentation was so in-depth and complete, there is no way one could walk away from the table with any questions left about it.

The team also took turns going over their unique, personality-driven explanations of dishes on the menu. This provided a way to practice verbiage and thieve good lines from co-workers. (Seriously though, on a team there is no thieving…everything is for the greater good.) My favorite part of the line up was at the very end.  The last topic on the line-up sheet read: Open.  This was an opportunity for anyone at the line up to share ideas, concerns, or industry news.  Jessica shared that the government wants to ban cheese!  Well, cheese aged in wood, aka good cheese.

Kirsten began planning a revolt with her riled up co-workers, but unfortunately the meeting dissipated and everyone went back to work. (However, every time I walked by the host stand I heard her fuming about it. Kirsten, start that revolt. I believe in you!)



Birds of a feather flock together


You know how you, wonderful reader, fit in so well with your group of friends? You laugh at the same stuff, you have similar goals, backgrounds, and aspirations?  Service teams are no different. Excellent service teams have a certain feel, personality, and structure to them. Just like you can move away from your home town and still find a group of friends to call your own, you can leave your exceptional restaurant service team and find another where you will fit in just fine.  They are all the same, yet uniquely different.

To prove my point, as I shadowed Patrick, I asked him where he is from. He said St. Louis, Missouri.  I used to work in Kansas City, and I told him that the only exceptional restaurant in St. Louis that I know about is Niche. To this he replied, “Ya, I used to work there before I moved here. A lot of my friends work there too.” And voila, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it!  Birds of a feather…


The sexy army


Patrick and I set up for a few big tops. There were two eights in addition to many loose tables. Once the evening got hoppin’ the team really began looking like that army of competent servers that I mentioned earlier. Since they are a team, and the service is top notch, they ran food to each table together and in unison. But it was the moments that led up to the food running that was so damn sexy!

The expo would call for the number of runners needed, the servers would line up quietly and attentively to collect the two plates handed to them.  They swiftly grabbed the plates, repeated the table and position numbers, and went to the hall to wait. They did not go onto the floor. They did not begin running. They waited for their food running companions.

If you are into service, this was a lovely sight to be seen.  Once the last food runner had their food in hand, they marched out (army of competent people), found their positions, gained eye contact with one another, and delivered the food in unison.

And that, for me, was the theme of the night.  It was a well-oiled and organized service.  And just like words can’t do justice for the beauty of the mountains, this service needs be seen to be appreciated.  So the next time you are in Vail, make a reservation at Kelly Liken, be treated to excellent service, and enjoy the ballet.


The team at Kelly Liken teaches us that smooth, graceful movements are a lovely attribute of a waiter, but when performed in unison with teammates, turns a service shift into a beautiful show.


Thank you Kelly Liken and husband Rick for creating the Restaurant Kelly Liken.  Thanks Sarah for allowing me to stage with your service team.  And thank you team!  You were gracious hosts and giving with your wisdom and knowledge. You are inspiring professionals!  Jeremy, Nate, Jessica, Jess, Patrick, Ian, Drew, and Kirsten.


Service Industry Connections

  • Jeremy, the Advanced Sommelier, is a friend and wine study partner of Andrew from Gramercy Tavern.
  • Ian, the creative bartender, used to work at The Mediterranean in Boulder.
  • Patrick, the strong and exact server that I shadowed, used to work at the notable restaurant, Niche, in St. Louis.



If you like Restaurant Kelly Liken, you could also try: La Belle Vie in Minneapolis or The American in Kansas City.



We are in this profession together. Let’s start applauding, sharing ideas and bringing more excellence to our game. Do you want to help me with this tour AND become a stronger server or manager? Thank God! Check out the iamWaitress product line HERE or make a donation on the left.

Editor: Rebecca Crane

  1. I just watched a party that Oprah threw celebrating women (there was a server for each guest, I’m thinking 50?) and it was the first time I had seen that done. They were all in sync and looked so proud to serve these women. It was a beautiful thing and actually gave me chills.

    • Hey Debbie. Thanks for the comment. Yes, it can look so elegant. And it shows that there is care and planning on the service team’s part. It gives a great impression. Thanks again Debbie.

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