By Maureen Post Special to Published Jul 30, 2008 at 5:29 AM

The Bartolotta family once again has its hand in the pot of innovation. Nearly five yars ago, in a continuing quest to expand beyond Milwaukee's restaurant business, Jennifer Bartolotta, wife of restaurateur Joe Bartolotta, initiated "Train 2 Gain" programming for business and dining etiquette.

After years of declining requests for instruction in dining and personal etiquette, Jennifer Bartolotta considered her previous experience and training in a Fortune 100 company and realized she quite possibly held the knowledge and know-how to create and administer an etiquette training program.

"I have compassion and understanding for where young, new hires are coming from," she said. "I really understand what they need to build confidence and to represent themselves appropriately in different situations. And I know I can relate well to that generation."

After compiling information and developing a training framework, Bartolotta tested her first public session five years ago. As luck would have it, representatives from staple Milwaukee companies like Rockwell and Deloitte and Touche were in attendance and instantly recognized the benefit Train 2 Gain would have on company employees. 

Thanks to word of mouth, Bartolotta implemented customized Train 2 Gain programming in dozens of Milwaukee companies including MillerCoors, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Alverno College over the last five years.

Currently, Train 2 Gain is comprised of 12 individual sessions, each lasting two hours with a specific topic and focus. Session topics include everything from dining etiquette and professional attire to grooming, business networking and generational diversity.

"We have a structure or framework but we really try to understand each corporate climate so that when we teach, we don't sound like a consultant," Bartolotta explains.  "We speak to them in a manner that shows we understand the mission and meaning of the company."

Train 2 Gain emerged out of the Bartolotta Restaurant experience, but Jennifer Bartolotta recently took the company out on her own. Bartolotta Restaurants are often used for dining etiquette, but yet the two companies are completely separate.

"If a client wants to do a session on dining etiquette, I would give them the choice of Bacchus, but I am open to doing it anywhere and negotiating with any restaurant to meet the needs of the client. The response clearly succeeded my expectations and so I decided to make it its own company," Bartolotta explained.

Bartolotta said the need for etiquette training comes largely from generational differences in understanding, interpretation and experience. 

"The young people today, the millennium group, didn't benefit from some of the things that the Baby Boomers or Generation Xers did because of the change in the family unit. Families have been pulled apart not just by divorce but by the way of the world with our schedules and our lives," Bartolotta said.

While the majority of Train 2 Gain clients are new hires or interns, companies use the training in all corporate departments to educate all employees on expectations and appropriate behavior.

"There is an expectation that you are going to behave a certain way when you show up to work. But when co-workers are lacking socialization skills and when they haven't been exposed to behaving in a professional way, it starts to cause some problems."

While Bartolotta, who thus far has run the sessions herself, spent the last five years focusing on corporate requests, she plans to expand annually by four or five sessions and offer more options to the public.

"We make the training fun. All sessions have been designed as team building exercises with competitions. The goal is for it to be fun and light but educational enough to build some skills so employees can be more confident in different situations," Bartolotta said.


Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.