Yesterday I had to be up early in order to take my wife out to the Traverse City Airport. Our daughter has her spring break this week from student teaching down in Virginia so my wife used an airline voucher she has had since she was bumped off of a flight last summer to go down and spend a few days with Joy and see our son, Jonathan, who is a college student down in Virginia as well.
On the way back from the airport I decided to stop at a restaurant in Mancelona that was having its Grand Opening. However, so many people were checking out this new eating establishment that I could not find a parking place, so I went to Shirley's Cafe just a couple of buildings down the street and I was treated not just to breakfast, but to a wonderful and enjoyable experience in first impressions and customer service.
A new waitress took my order which was quite simple. I asked for 2 eggs over easy with hash browns, wheat toast, and coffee. The waitress politely asked me if I wanted onions mixed in with my potatoes. After gagging at the thought (after all, who would want to ruin potatoes by mixing in onions - that would be like ruining hamburger by making it into meatloaf) I replied back with a polite yet firm, "NOT ON YOUR LIFE!"
Guess what happened when my breakfast came out from the kitchen? I bet you hit the nail right on the head with your answer. My hash browns were filled with onions. The waitress (remember, she was brand new) nervously said, "Oh, I thought you said you wanted onions." I loved what happened next. Another waitress saw the newbie's distress and came over and said, "No problem, we can easily correct this."
I was surprised how long it took to do this. After all, how long does it take to scrape off the infected hash browns and slap on some new ones that were minus the onions. When the waitress came out with my plate the second time she said, "Here you go, sir. Instead of just replacing the hash browns we went ahead and remade your whole meal so that everything was hot and satisfactory." NICE!
As I ate my breakfast while perusing the latest issue of USA Today, I couldn't help but be intrigued as Shirley herself (the cafe's owner) tool the new waitress around and explained to her how important first impressions and customer service is. Here are some of the things I heard her share with her newest employee:
-Each time you clean a table you start by moving everything out of the middle and cleaning their first. Then you clean the rest of the table. Most restaurants never clean the middle of the table where all the condiments sit. Here at Shirley's Cafe we clean the whole table every single time.
-When we do our regular cleaning we clean everything including the tops of our picture frames on the walls and even behind the jukebox.
-We stay observant. If we notice that the sun is shining in a customer's eyes we do not wait for them to say something. We go to them and ask if they would like us to lower the shades. When we see people huddled together at tables for body warmth we don't wait for them to say, "could you turn up some heat?" We go and ask them, "Would you like us to turn up the heat?"
-When customer's come to Shirley's they deserve a great dining experience and that is what we are committed to providing them.
I smiled. Shirley has it right! So right, that I even laid down a 28% tip in spite of the onion incident (don't think that was too much of a splurge as my bill was only $7.19).
Eating breakfast at Shirley's Cafe was a great reminder to me of how important first impressions are - even in the church. Every Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free Church is someone's first experience with us. From the moment they drive into the parking lot we want them to have a WOW experience. That takes all of us who are part of E-Free being focused and committed every Sunday to providing a friendly environment where we can meet people - all kinds of people - exactly where they are at so that we can move them to closer and closer to where God wants them to be!