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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

A Few of My Favorite Quality Things

A testimony of a few admirable products and services

Published: Monday, March 9, 2009 - 09:38

To be a quality professional means that you must have a trained eye and a sensitive ear for the delivery of exceptional service. We appear to be a group of people who have set the bar so high that at times it may be difficult or almost impossible for service personnel to meet our expectations. As such, when we single out a company or person for our admiration, I conclude that it’s a special moment, because all of us like to be associated with high levels of quality.

This is the time of year when many newspapers ask their readers to list their favorite restaurants, hair stylist, hotel, or pet groomer to name just a few. What follows is my list. I chose them based on the quality of the item or the excellent quality service provided by the employees. Naturally, many of the selections are located in Michigan, my home state, but several of you have probably experienced the hospitality of our state and might just agree. On the other hand, there is a fair sampling of items from across the nation. See how many you recognize.

Vacation location in Michigan—Grand Haven, is an idyllic fishing and recreational and camping town on the shores of Lake Michigan. The stroll along the boardwalk to the historic lighthouse is breathtaking. The evening sunset is spectacular,  and there’s nothing better than the soft, soothing sands along the beach.

Appetizer—The barbeque meatballs at Win Schulers in Marshall, Michigan, melt in your mouth. Four generations of family members have been operating this historic restaurant since 1909. First-class service and exceptional food are just some of the reasons this epicurean delight has withstood the strains of a changing economy.

Steakhouse—It’s a tie. There’s Gibson’s on Rush Street in Chicago. Dining in the enclosed porch area gives you a bird’s eye view of street activity in the Windy City. The portions are huge, so bring your appetite. Then there’s Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida, where after dinner you can tour the kitchen and the wine cellar. Dessert is served on a separate floor in private enclosed booths. Bern’s is also the winner of the best steakhouse in the United States according to Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.

Hotel—The Ritz-Carlton’s ambience and personal attention are its hallmarks. The ladies and gentlemen of the hotel, as they are called, provide some of the best guest service on the planet. Having won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award twice separates this prestigious hotel from the others.

Cruise line—Royal Caribbean’s seven days and seven islands out of Puerto Rico is like a continuous massage. You will feel relaxed and restful for weeks.

Place to have white bean chili soup—At the Kirby Grill in Grand Haven, Michigan, the soup is so good your knees will buckle when you taste it. Seriously.

Zoo—A zoo is just a zoo until you experience the surroundings at the San Diego Zoo. There are lots of exhibits that are easy to navigate, and of course, it’s one of the few zoos with pandas.

Summer vacation—Try Mackinac Island with lunch at the Grand Hotel. The hotel boasts the world’s longest porch. No cars are allowed on the island, just horse-drawn carriages. The aroma of fudge and equine droppings fill the air. For a less esoteric aromatic mix travel there in June for the lilac festival. It’s a real nostril treat.

Major league baseball park—Hands down the best has to be Wrigley Field in Chicago. Witnessing a game at this iconic ballpark is not about the game; it’s about the park itself. Watching and listening to Harry Carey belt out “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” was a moment to be treasured, along of course, with a real Chicago hot dog. Give me lots of bright green relish please.

Airline—When it comes to safety, fun, and on-time arrivals, Southwest Airlines is the hallmark.

Consulting firm—Talent Plus is a global human resources consulting firm specializing in recruitment, selection, development, and retention of talented people. Our new Henry Ford Medical Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, had 40,000 applications for 1,100 positions and Talent Plus was pivotal in the hiring. As mentioned in a previous column, the new concept entitled “FutureSizing” aligns a work force to meet present and future needs by taking into account associates’ talents when making staff reductions rather than basing such decisions simply on tenure, salary, or performance metrics.

National quality award program—The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award established in 1987 is still the epicenter of performance excellence. Directed by Harry Hertz, this program continues to inspire and motivate organizations to raise their level of quality and customer service. Each year, there are more than one million downloads of the Baldrige Criteria and close to 80 organizations apply for the award knowing that it will energize the staff and have a positive effect on their internal processes.

Historic site—It’s a tie between the Book Depository in Dallas and Pearl Harbor. Both experiences will be overwhelming and awe-inspiring. The silence of the attendees in both locales signals that these are very special places.

Talk show host—I had the pleasure of being interviewed by J.P. McCarthy on his WJR “Focus” program in Detroit many times and he is without a doubt the best. Sadly he passed on much too soon.

Watch brand—My Breitling keeps me on time within two seconds each week. And Tourneau, which has stores nationwide, takes trade-ins, so it’s easy to trade up on a purchase.

Music attraction—The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is a great place to travel back to the days when music actually had words. Why this memorial to music is not located in Motown is a mystery to me.

Department store—Kohl’s is a winner, especially on Wednesdays when seniors get 15 percent off all purchases.

Dessert—Any cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.

Pizza – Buddy’s in Detroit or any pizza from the eateries in downtown Chicago. Our neighbors to the west of us really know how to bake a pie!

Amusement park—The Michigan Adventure Park in Muskegon, Michigan, takes high honors. A ride on the roller coaster Shivering Timbers is spectacular. More than 60 rides and attractions and a spectacular water park with 20 wild water rides.

Discount store—Filene’s Basement in Chicago sells brand name and designer clothing overstocks, shoes, purses, and other items at tremendous discount. How about a $200 evening gown for $20? My wife, Mary, has that very item.

Canadian restaurant—Michaels on the Thames in London, Ontario, has wonderful food prepared at your table, including a terrific Caesar salad and fabulous flambéed desserts. Jack DiCarlo, the maitre d’, will serenade you and your party with a song of your choice. Ask for the table in front of the fireplace for a truly romantic evening.

Michigan restaurant—The 1913 Room at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in our state. The service and the menu selections are first class. In 2008 it won that distinction for the seventh time. Guess what city has the most AAA Five Diamond Restaurants? If you guessed New York you are incorrect. New York only has three AAA Five Diamond Restaurants. Las Vegas has four and Chicago has seven.

Golf course—Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Michigan, offers panoramic views of Northern Michigan foliage and firs and well manicured fairways.

Romantic getaway—The Betsie Bay Inn in Frankfort, Michigan, has rooms outfitted with hot tubs, saunas, canopy beds, and wood burning stoves. It’s the perfect getaway for married couples. If you weren’t married when you arrived, you will be when you leave.

Snack—The Pronto Pup Stand in Grand Haven has been delighting hot dog aficionados for more than 60 years. Grab a couple of doggies and then stroll along the boardwalk, and then settle in for the Musical Fountain at dusk along the Grand River.

Media companyQuality Digest magazine defines quality through interactive content that contains useful information for real quality professionals doing real jobs. It has evolved into the No. 1 magazine in the industry, providing articles on performance-excellence topics, buyer guides, user forums, state quality award information, event coverage, commentary, interviews, and book reviews.

Physician—Dr. James Peabody of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit who through robotic surgery cured me of prostate cancer. One month after my operation, I was running and biking again. Being cancer free certainly enhances one’s quality of life and I am the poster boy for a successful operation.

People to hang out with—My three children, Cathy, MaryJo, Bill Jr., their spouses, and our 11 grandchildren.

Soul mate—My wife Mary of 45 years has somehow put up with my idiosyncrasies and being a cranky old man.

I realize this may be too much information for some of you and it may sound like a personal travel log. But no trips or free food was offered and no animals were harmed in the preparation of this column.

I suspect that many of you have your own list of favorite things and perhaps some of mine intersect with yours. As you noticed, my list consists of organizations, vacation locations, products, restaurants and people who in my estimation have provided products and service beyond the norm, resulting in excitement and significant approval on my part.

Discuss

About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semi-retired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.