Priceless Little Things That Matter

By Beacon Staff

Restaurants put a buffet-sized effort and several ladles of money toward creating an experience that motivates you to tell your friends all about it.

Note: If you don’t own a restaurant, don’t think this is off-topic for you. It isn’t.

If you own a restaurant, what you really want to hear in line at Albertson’s, Smith’s or Super1 is someone who appears to be your ideal client telling their friend (on their cell of course) about the great time they had at Joe Mama’s BBQ and how Jerry the waiter was so funny and kept the kids entertained (or whatever).

That doesn’t often happen by accident, whether it’s a restaurant or an outdoor power equipment store.

Despite all the best planned effort to make your place a must-visit, little things that your staff does (or doesn’t do) will transform a meal into marketing you can’t buy. You can’t (well, sorta) pay people talk all googly eyed about your business and force them opinions on friends and family.

You can, however, do stuff to make them want to do just that.

A couple weeks back, 11 of us had dinner at a fish house in Branson. Branson is not Las Vegas as far as timetables are concerned, so our walking in the door with a big party at 7:55pm was just barely making their last seating.

It would have been easy for them to go through the motions serving a big group who walked in as the last seating of the day on a Sunday. Large groups mean a guaranteed 18% tip in most restaurants, so unless she really stunk up the place, it was a done deal that our waitress would walk away with a sizable tip.

At first I just wasn’t sure, but little things started giving away that Lorraine was bringing her A game.

When she got to me and asked for a drink order, I was more than ready. After three long, hot and humid days in the south, I felt dehydrated and was very thirsty.

When she asked for my drink order, I held my hands above each other about 2 feet apart and asked for a drink “about this big”. She said “We only have one size”. I thought “Uh oh” to myself, assuming that we were going to get “dude, we’re closing!” style service.

I was wrong.

When she brought drinks, I got two cups. When she brought refills, I got two refills. I never had to ask for a refill.

After the third cup vaporized (I *said* I was thirsty), she brought a pitcher and put a straw in it.

She never said a word about my conspicuous consumption (hey it was only Diet Coke), it just happened, often without me noticing right away.

Everyone around me had a little fun with me about it, and I appreciated the special care – even for this little tiny thing like a drink.

It wasn’t long after the food’s arrival that we were ready to go. We didn’t spend a pile of time in the “after-meal” because we wanted to see the laser show held in the complex near the restaurant – something all the kids were ready to see.

With lasers on the brain, the tab was paid and out the door we headed. I suspect the restaurant staff hustled to close up so they could go home after a long, hot weekend.

About 10 minutes later, our waitress comes walking up (in the dark) and approaches us as we watched the laser show.

She’s holding a sippy cup. Little Charlie had dropped it under the table and we’d left without noticing (we did have Charlie with us, of course).

At a time when many would have been counting tips, closing their register and heading home, Lorraine remembered our question about the laser show and walked 250 yards each direction on that hot, humid evening and found us in the dark, just to deliver a two year old’s sippy cup.

She put a priceless finishing touch on the evening.

How do you make your customers’ experience priceless?

How do you determine which prospective staffers are the ones with the “stuff” to do those little priceless things?

It matters.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.