One thing you will learn about me by subscribing to this blog is I have had many jobs in my life. I love sharing stories about them, like fending off jerks at gas stations for example. I have also worked at many bars and restaurants over the years. This is a story about a lesson I learned as a server that you can apply to your business.
I once worked for a restaurant / folk bar / Jewish buffet / club in Toronto called Free Times Café (still going strong). Like many restaurants and bars in T.O., this one is in an old home. It is decorated with funky lamps and mismatched tables and chairs. It has a cool, eclectic, artsy vibe.
Nights for me were filled with folk music and serving beer, Sundays had live Klezmer bands and enough latkes and blintzes to make anyone cry, "Oy!". I also had busy weekday lunches, serving neighboring office workers and college students. It was at Free Times where I learned the secret power of a free slice of pie.
The Secret Power of a Free Slice of Pie
One weekday, I was serving a table of four women over lunch. One of the women was annoyed because her meal came out much later than the other three. The kitchen was backed up, a mistake was made with her order, and she had to wait and eat after her friends had already dug into their dishes.
As a server, there are only a few things you really have to get right serving people. Getting the orders correct, and of high quality (not cold) is essential to making sure the customers are happy. In addition, smiling and remembering names always helps. Plus, going that extra mile in anyway possible will ensure a nice tip.
The hungry woman was angry about the situation. I couldn't blame her. There she sat, salivating, as her colleagues pigged out. I knew the secret to making everything good again - the pie.
We usually had two different cakes or pies each day of the week. It was the server's job to pretty up the plate and up-sell them to customers. A slice of pie already looks nice, but add a little syrup, whipping cream, and a dusting of cinnamon or chocolate powder and boom! That's a fine looking dish.
One dollar earned us a life long customer.
Just after I cleared the woman's plate, I delivered a delicious looking plate of pie. I apologized for the mix-up in the kitchen and exclaimed dessert was on me. Her anger changed to joy as her eyes lit up in elated delight. Her companions all burst out with a supportive laugh. All was good in the world again. The event made the lunch a positive and memorable experience.
Not only did the lady leave happy, she returned several times each month for lunch with friends. In fact, one of her colleagues returned for lunch sooner after. She sheepishly admitted she had hoped I would mess up her order, so she could get the free slice too.
1 free slice of pie cost the restaurant about $1.00. One dollar earned us a life long customer. I would say it was worth every cent.
What can you offer your disgruntled customers to make things great again? It probably won't cost you as much as you think.