Floridino employee the hostess with the mostest

Felicia Tobin of Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta in Chandler won Best Host in the United States in the first Servies Awards presented by Yelp to celebrate front-of-house restaurant employees. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

When people eat out, they almost always notice when they get poor service. Some, however, don’t always recognize great service.

The online directory Yelp is hoping to change that by starting the Servies Awards to recognize great service at restaurants around the nation. Chandler is taking home one of the first Servies being handed out.

Felicia Tobin of Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta won the Best Host category.

“My husband mentioned that you’re being recognized for something that people just go to the restaurant and take for granted,” Tobin said in the video Yelp put together to recognize her award.

Tobin received a trophy, a $3,000 gift card, and a pair of Snibbs shoes, which are designed for long days on your feet. When Yelp officials presented the award to Tobin, they surprised the staff by giving them $3,000 as well.

“I don’t want to discredit her by any means,” said Lindsay Gilliland, who is the front of house manager for Floridinos. “But I think it was a whole team effort. Like she has been an amazing representative for it and I think she 100% deserves it. But she stands out because the trust that her team has in her.”

Yelp recognized eight workers. Tobin was the only Arizona winner. The other categories were Best Server, Best Front of House team, Best Hustle, Best Bartender, Best Team Player, Best Manager, Best Vibe in addition to Best Host.

Tobin said a lot goes into being a good host.

“Attention to detail,” she said. “I host Monday nights and Monday nights are really intense. So we get crazy busy. And you have to … pay attention to detail, you got to be present, you got to know what’s going on with other servers, you got to know who you can sit and who you can’t sit, and how they’re doing.”

Gilliland said Tobin could easily have won other categories as well and she wasn’t the only employee who was deserving.

“We looked at all the categories,” Gilliland said. “And we’re like, ‘Well, you know someone that could win every single one of these categories.’”

Like many restaurants, Floridinos needed to change to survive during the pandemic. The pizzeria shut down for only a week after one employee tested positive for the coronavirus. But other than that, they were able to stay open and keep everyone employed.

Tobin said before COVID-19 they used to have a line of people lined up at the register waiting to pick up to-go orders. The pandemic forced them to streamline their curbside service, improving it greatly.

Now, they have 12 parking lot spaces dedicated to to-go orders. She said it’s not unheard of for all 12 to be occupied and others waiting for someone to leave.

“It’s an amazing place,” said Tobin, who has worked at Floridinos for five years. “We have a lot of regulars come in every single day, every week. And then, sometimes we’ll have events going on and those events will bring in new people that have never been here and they’ll like the food … and they continue to come back.”

Tobin and others credited their customers for voting and helping her win Best Host. She was nominated by a co-worker. They sent in photos of her at work and the nomination letter explaining why she was deserving. Yelp then selected finalists. The winner was chosen by people voting across the nation.

Floridino’s General Manager Jason Stephens said helping Tobin win was a team effort.

“Everybody here was on board right away,” he said. “They were voting every day, they were telling their tables to vote for her. And then when she won, everybody was excited. ... Yelp decided to match the $3,000 for the whole team. So Felicia got her prize money, but then they gave us prize money to us for the whole team.”

Stephens said he will use that money for the restaurant’s holiday party.

Floridino’s has been a Chandler destination for 26 years.

“Everybody puts their egos aside and just comes together and gets things done,” Stephens said.

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