The other night I had a wonderful meal at Mama Louise, an Italian restaurant in Orlando on Florida’s ever popular “Restaurant Row.” I ordered Mama’s Stuffed Chicken, and it was delicious. But, good food isn’t what this is about. It’s about the experience that Joe Esposito and his staff created.
First, the staff was friendly and helpful, making suggestions and letting us know what was most popular on the menu. They were attentive. They did everything they were supposed to do. Good food with good service is a winning combination.
Second, the owner, Joe Esposito, made it his mission throughout the evening, even though he was in the back running the kitchen, to visit each and every guest. When he came by our table I complimented him on the great food and excellent service. We started talking and he shared some of his philosophies that all of us can learn from and can apply to just about any business.
- Spend time with your customers. Great leaders in any business will spend time with customers. Joe is a restaurant operator and a chef. He is most comfortable in the kitchen, but realized that he had to go “on the floor” to talk to his guests, get their feedback and let them know how much he appreciated their business. His line sums it up: “Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse didn’t become successful by staying in the kitchen.”
- Know what you’re good at. Joe didn’t try to be something that he wasn’t. His restaurant is in the middle of some pretty high-end and expensive restaurants. He might be tempted to try and make the ambiance more upscale or raise prices to be closer to what some of his neighbors are charging. His food and service is great. The price is reasonable and the experience, which includes the ambiance and décor is right in line with expectations. Joe said something that made me realize that this was purposeful. He said: “We’re not fine dining. We’re fun dining!”
- Make customers feel special. One night a woman came into the restaurant to celebrate her 90th When Joe found out, he couldn’t wait to come out and wish her a happy birthday, but there was more. He insisted on buying her dinner. This is what he said: “When I’m 90, I hope someone buys me dinner! This what my mom, Mama Louise, would have done. Not only that. She would have sat down and had dinner with you!
Joe obviously loves the restaurant business. He loves to cook, yet just as important if not more so, he loves his customers. When you mix unbridled passion and enthusiasm for the customer with skill and capability, it’s a winning combination.
By the way, next time you’re in Orlando, go to Mama Louise Restaurant, and tell Joe that Shep sent you!
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)