I want to tell you a story about the best/worst service that I ever received in a restaurant.

This was many years ago, maybe seven, and was the result of a visit to a brand new restaurant that had just opened in Halifax. My friend Dan and I decided to check it out and went just a couple of weeks after they opened.

Our server came to the table, offered us menus, took our drink orders, and left us to peruse the menu for ourselves.

There were a few dishes that caught my eye but both Dan and I were curious, with a new restaurant, as to what the server would recommend. So we asked.

“Our steaks are NOT very good. Our pizzas and pasta are ok but not particularly memorable. Our grilled panninis are VERY good.”

“What about your haddock almondine?”

“Have you ever had haddock almondine?”

“Yes.”

“Well, it’s nothing like that. Instead of a creamy almond sauce, it’s a pretty tasty piece of fish with some finely chopped almonds sprinkled on top. It’s good. But it’s not haddock almondine…if you’ve ever had haddock almondine.”

I ordered a turkey pannini, complete with cranberry mayo, and Dan ordered the “haddock almondine.”

Both dishes were VERY good…but Dan complained to me about the server. He couldn’t believe that she would talk that much trash about her own restaurant. So when she came back, we asked her about it.

“Look. You guys seem nice. And I’d love you to come back. So I’m not going to recommend food that isn’t good. We make some things REALLY well, but there are some things that we make are not. You seemed like a couple of guys who could handle the truth. Was I wrong?”

She wasn’t.

It became a regular spot for us.

Here’s what that server did, in an instant, that most of us are not capable of doing over years of experience; she understood her customers.

She very quickly established, through some very brisk table conversation that we were a couple of guys who wanted to have good food and a good time, could take a joke, and didn’t want to get served figurative or literal bullshit.

There is NOTHING, I repeat… NOTHING, more important than understanding your customers. You can have the best product or service in the world but if you’re barking up the wrong tree, it means nothing.

Ask questions. Simple questions.

Get to know your customers and potential customers. Understand them.

On both a personal and professional level.

And feel free to be honest. It works. Trust me.

 

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