Never Assume

One thing I have learned during my travels in this business, is that you can never make assumptions about a customer.  You never know who out there has money to spend, and who might become a potentially life-long customer for you.  I learned this for sure in Los Angeles, where often it is difficult to tell the difference between the haves and the have-nots.

One time a couple came in to a place, where I happened to be working the door, dressed, well, shall we say, not like a million bucks.  It would have been very easy to blow them off, ship them back to the bar, anything but the dining room, but since that is not in my nature (I had always been taught that you treat everyone equally, the mayor, the garbageman, etc.), I seated them at a very nice table.

Sure enough, they fell in love with us, partly because they didn’t get attitude about the sweats they were wearing, and they ended up becoming three-times-a-week regulars who always spent a lot of money.  This is about as good an example as I can come up with.  This one illustrates my whole point.  Treat everyone well, that’s what we do in this business.

Single Diners

Another time a single gentleman came in without a reservation.  It, again, would have been so easy to not go that extra mile for him, but instead we found him a spot to sit.  Not only did we find him a nice spot in the dining room, I made sure to stop by a couple of times to see how his dinner was going.  Turns out he was moving to town and was to be some exec at a big, (very big) business just down the street.

He ended up coming in quite regularly with his lovely wife, but besides that, sent so many of his clients and co-workers to us for lunch and for dinner.  He even had an annual Christmas dinner for his office at our restaurant, adding an additional $4000 to our annual sales report.

Those two customers alone, who easily could have been shown the bum’s rush out, accounted for over $30,000 a year in sales–for many years! (This number is actually a conservative estimate, because there is no way of knowing exactly how much other business they sent our way.)


On the other side of that coin is how my wife and daughters are treated when they go out to eat without me.  I am afraid that there are still a number of restaurants, or at least restaurant employees, out there who follow old stereotypes.

It does drive me crazy to hear tales of women, young people, old people, minorities, or others (I guess this only leaves nicely dressed, middle-aged white men untouched–hmm), being treated with less respect.  I thought everyone’s money was the same color.  Silly me.

So, make a point to treat everyone the same.  You never know who will be helping you write your next paycheck.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda says:

    Spot on, Tom. There is a new bakery in my neighborhood and I like their coffee and their pastries just fine. The atmosphere is nice too. In fact, it’s really nice; the tables are beautiful, the design and attention to detail is quirky yet smooth. But what I really like is how the young, cute hipster treats me, an over 50 neighborhood lady. Not only that, his boss, the owner, treats him the same way he, the hipster, treats me; with respect, sincerity, and an overall “thanks for being here today”. And the owner, has the same generous “good morning” for me too. I really look forward to my coffee and the faces behind the counter. No attitude.

  2. Jane Morrill says:

    Tom this is so true! I regularly demo wines to the public and you really never do know. Some people work for wineries, others grow grapes or are winemakers themselves. Some know nothing at all about wine and want to learn. You simply cannot tell by the way they are dressed. I try to assume everyone is an expert, unless they tell me otherwise. I am sure the same goes for customers ordering wine in a restaurant.

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