This particular trip began with a number of challenges, however, all of that was about to change. When I am traveling, I enjoy finding the favorite restaurant of the locals. As a writer, I love going to the home-town favorite place to eat and hearing the stories of that community.
After consulting Yelp and Trip Advisor, I pulled into the gravel parking lot full of pickup trucks. I was, after all, in East Texas. My rented small SUV stood out as much as I would when I entered the door of Pat’s Belle Pepper Cafe.
Walking across the front porch, the aroma of home-cooked food drifted out of the door. As I stepped inside the restaurant, and began to look around the long and narrow dining room, everyone turned to look at me. I mean it – every single head turned and recognized that I was not from their neighborhood. There I was in business professional dress on my way to a speaking engagement. Everyone in the room was wearing jeans, boots and most were wearing hats – cowboy hats and “trucker” style ball caps. I flashed my best smile to them all and waited, for only a few seconds, to be seated.
The cashier was so warm and told me which tables to choose from for a seat. Handing me a menu, the server explained that the best items were the specials written on the chalkboard in front of me. Then the magic happened.
The owner, Ms. Pat, walked over, introduced herself and helped me choose her favorites since the recipes are her creations. After I finished ordering, Ms. Pat sat down and joined me. She told me about her restaurant, her husband and her experience living in East Texas.
Ms. Pat went on to explain her passion and how much she enjoys cooking and enjoys people. She could have been living a nice retirement, but instead, she is busy doing something she loves. Based on what she told me, I would guess she was in her 70’s and the restaurant was only 7 years old. She inspired me that she started a business so late in her life. This is not a job or a burden. It is her passion.
As she talked, and learned my story, it reminded me of another family-owned business – the one I had worked for most of my life. It was the same kind of place, where the owner knew the names of his customers, their regular orders and their stories, too. He, also, was still opening new restaurant concepts very late in life.
I finished my meal and Ms. Pat offered dessert. Most of the time, I would resist, but Ms. Pat was so irresistible, herself. She told me that she made the pies and cakes herself and I needed to have a slice of her favorite. I didn’t want to offend her, so I ate the pie, too.
As I left, everyone said goodbye and Ms. Pat wished me well for my speaking engagement. It was a remarkable experience.
Driving away, I reflected on why my visit to Pat’s Belle Pepper Cafe was so exceptional. The visit had all of the hallmarks of a remarkable customer experience. These elements of service are the ones I learned while at Chick-fil-A, and they existed at this business, too.
- I received a warm welcome. It was obvious I was an “outsider” and the staff immediately made me feel welcome.
- The employees smiled. All of the staff were friendly and engaging, even though the restaurant was full and they were very busy.
- The food was good and fresh. Truett Cathy said, “Food is essential to life. Therefore, make it good.” They were proud of their family recipes they used to prepare the food.
- They cared about me. Ms. Pat took the time during a busy lunch hour with a full restaurant to sit down and learn my story. All the while, she was greeting and acknowledging customers by name as they came through the door. Even though, I was just passing through, and likely never to return, she was generous with her time.
- They provided a fond farewell. When I left, I was thanked for coming to the restaurant and received well wishes for my speaking engagement that evening.
None of these actions are particularly difficult. However, when leadership and talent care about the customer and demonstrate care through their actions, the result is a remarkable customer experience.
The two most important elements of a recipe for a remarkable experience is leadership and talent. The leadership must select extraordinary talent, set expectations and demonstrate the desired behavior toward customers. The talent must care through words and actions that resonate with the customer. When these two things exist in a business, the result is remarkable experiences that that keep customers coming back again and gain. Go ahead, be like Ms. Pat and choose to be remarkable.