(Today, we’re lucky to have a guest post from a mentor and friend, Joey Helleny. A true Renaissance man, I’ve written about Joey Vegas before. We like him. A lot. You’ll like him, too.)
Danny Meyer is one of the top restaurateurs in the U.S. His New York City eateries include The Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Blue Smoke, and The Modern. Certainly the restaurants serve good food, but they are particularly known for his brand of extreme hospitality.
Meyer makes a distinction between customer service and hospitality:
“Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes someone feel.”
In his book, Setting the Table (Harper Collins), Meyer says our first “hospitality transaction” happens when, as a newborn baby, we get eye contact, a smile, a hug, and some food. It’s no wonder we spend the rest of our lives craving those same gifts. The goal of hospitality, he says, is to make you feel like the staff was on your side.
Looking For Opportunities
That experience begins even before the diners ever set foot in the restaurant as Meyer and his managers pour over the reservation data:
“We look for opportunities to create chance encounters by strategically seating people with similar business interests near one another. We also try to create privacy for those who want it….The more specific information we can gather ahead of someone’s dining experience, the great the chance we can create a ‘rave experience.’”
Meyer uses the info to send a special gift course to someone celebrating a special occasion. Or, if the guest shows up on more than one of his restaurants’ reservation sheets, the restaurant GM might make it a point to thank the guest for his loyalty to the restaurant group and ask about his experience at the other location.
Meyer’s goal is to earn a regular customer.
He says they earn repeat business over 70 percent of the time. But even when Meyer sees an area code from a long way away, that traveler might get a special welcome. A manager will make sure they know about the sister restaurants in town (and perhaps gain another nights’ business). You can bet those travelers tell their friends back home about the hospitality.
When businesses can develop a strong positive feeling (emotion) from their customers, they develop a strong brand. It’s why Harley Davidson riders wouldn’t get aboard any other bike. It’s why Apple fans wait in line for the latest iGadget. It also may be why your cousin wouldn’t think of driving any other pickup besides his Ford/Chevy/Dodge (pick one).
How about you?
Think about now how your business can be pro-active in delivering hospitality (Tim would call it shareworthy customer service). Can you anticipate your customers’ needs in the way Danny Meyer plans for his guests to have a great night?
Here’s one example: My pharmacist noticed that my insurance benefit year was about to roll over. But I hadn’t been in yet for refills. She ordered them anyway. And so, when I showed up the next week the pills were already waiting and she had saved me a deductible.
How will you plan for your customers to have a rave experience?
p.s. Meyer’s book also has great tips for hiring and keeping the best staff, keeping your business engaged in the community, and leadership.