Last night we took our daughter, Felice, to our favorite little restaurant here in Dunsmuir, Café Maddalena. It was Thursday night in the middle of a recession and the place was packed, mostly with people we didn’t recognize – visitors. This is not the cheapest place in town, and there weren’t any “smokin’ hot deals”.
So why were they doing so well? Why, according to Nancy LaMott, owner with her husband Brett, has this been a good year for them?
As we watched people coming in and leaving, Felice turned to me and said, “It’s obvious mom. It’s her wonderful smile!”
Can a smile really make that much of a difference? I watched as Nancy worked the room. Every customer, stranger or friend, was greeted immediately upon entering, and seated as if the place had been waiting just for them. Nancy doesn’t wait on tables, she watches. If you catch her eye, you get a smile and your waiter is there almost immediately.
When you leave, she takes a moment to thank you. If you have something to say, or a question to ask, you have her full attention. People may come in strangers, but all who leave feel like new friends.
Most restaurants have a hostess who is responsible for seating customers and handling checkouts where people bring their bill to a counter.
If you as a restaurant owner added to that person’s job description smiling and taking a moment for genuine interaction – making a friend of your customer – you are almost guaranteeing repeat business.
Don’t take the WalMart greeter as your model when training your hostess. Use Nancy LaMott – genuine, interested, open concern and interaction with the objective of making a meal a memorable dining experience.
It can happen anywhere workers are encouraged to take a moment to make eye contact, listen and smile.