Leading is a simple act, do the right thing, people see it and they emulate you. That’s it! It’s not that complicated. It’s the reason I call it Ground Level Leadership.
I recently went to a favorite Italian restaurant. It’s a distance from my home in Florida so I’m usually either going somewhere or returning from somewhere and I take advantage of the close proximity of passing it.
I stopped in one day and forgot they close the dining room between lunch and dinner service. You can order to go items and shop in their market section but no sit down dining. Fine, I wanted dinner and was willing to wait. It was 3:40 and they reopen at 4. It’s Florida so the weather allows you to wait outside on their cozy stone benches with no backs.
At 4pm, I walked back in to restaurant to be seated at one of their patio tables. I was told they weren’t ready yet. I asked, “you open at 4”? The waitress who was carefully wiping down menus, looked at me and said we are not ready to open, you can wait on the outside bench.
Being a former restaurant owner, I understand, having a busy lunch and not quite being ready and said, we just want to sit, you don’t have to wait on us until you are caught up. She shot me a look as if I just called her a filthy name, and retorted with please, just wait outside until we are ready.
OK, I went back outside to sit on the nice hard stone bench, again! At 4:20, I walked back in the door. There might have been some steam coming out of my ears but I remained calm. This time the owner’s son was at the cash register. He knew me and knew I was a regular. He says to me, “we are not ready yet”. I confirmed with “you do open at 4 for dinner service, correct?” He just looked at me and said with a smile “wait outside on the nice bench, we’ll take good care of you”. I was thinking, why don’t you just let me sit at a table and wait for the little twit to get done. Instead I said “did I ever tell you what I do for a living? I share best practices in the restaurant business and how to keep your clientele. He just smiled and said the same “Just wait outside on the nice bench, we’ll take good care of you”.
At that moment, Ms. Menu Wiper, grabbed a couple of menus and said it was OK, she could take us to a table.
We sat down and I realized her podium for seating people was at the top of the outside tables and as she adjusted a table next us, I asked if the reason she couldn’t seat us was it would start a chain reaction because she couldn’t be at the podium.
She turned sharply and said, no, that is not the reason. The menus weren’t ready, the tables weren’t ready and the cash register wasn’t ready! And with an extremely disgusted look on her face, she asked, “are you done yet”!
You might be asking yourself, why didn’t I just leave. The only reason I did not walk out was because I knew the very polite waiter from previous visits and I’m a foodie and I had my appetite worked up for a specific dish and being a restaurant person I know; the behavior or one twit shouldn’t condemn the whole place.
But I will admit, I went into a slow burn and by the next day that restaurant was on my hit list. OK, They had a big rush at lunch. Getting ready for dinner was challenging but that’s not the customers fault. I have been in the same situation and the best thing to do is to allow the customers to sit, give them a cup of something, on the house and ask them to please be patient while they finish getting ready. Customers will put up with mediocre food but not with poor service or attitude and the fact that the owner’s son had the same attitude but with a smile, didn’t make it any less tolerable.
Between the market and the food, I never checked out for less than $80.00 per visit. Because of the sour experience, I haven’t been back yet and that was months ago.
Statistics report the cost of losing a customer will cost a restaurant, on average of at least ten to twenty thousand, depending on the price point of the business.