I was having dinner recently at one of my favorite steak restaurants in Carlsbad, CA. It was easy to recognize the effects of our current economic recession, as it was only half full on a normally bustling evening. Just last summer, you couldn’t get a table in this place. I really wasn’t that hungry; so as my guests ordered from the excellent house specials, I asked for the filet mignon sliders that I have had on several occasions at the bar, but which are not included on the dining room menu.
Since I am a frequent customer, I had good rapport with our server. She quietly informed me that the sliders were considered “bar food” and could not be served in the dining room.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked as I looked around. “Now is not the time to enforce rules because of some ambiance you are trying to preserve.” I asked to speak to the manager who communicated, through the server no less, that he stood by the rule. I let the server know my disappointment, and I bid them farewell for the last time.
Consider my new favorite restaurant Via Italia in Encinitas, California. It’s run by a vibrant Italiano named Paolo who completely understands who the customer is, and a master at business transformation. His margins are shrinking so what does he do? He gives more away to his customers. Upon entering his establishment, you are handed a glass of chilled Prosseco. When you are seated, he brings you some thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma. The best part is that you still haven’t spent a nickel. His place is packed – even mid-week! People appreciate value not uppity attitudes, and sales excellence is often preceded by excellence of character.
If you run a business in this economy, be flexible, be generous when you can, take less and make more, and consider sales innovation techniques to bring your customers back time after time. You don’t have to own a restaurant to learn from Paolo.