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Jeffrey Summers
Award Winning Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author
Fort Worth, Texas
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It's The Service Stupid

One of my core service beliefs that I personally hold and professionally Coach is that you can’t deliver a higher level of service than you have ever experienced. If you haven’t seen it, how are you going to model it?
Written Nov 04, 2009, read 1435 times since then.


Likewise, if you do not understand how important the guest experience is, then you most likely never will. If you have never seen it, been trained with it, had it modeled in your home by your parents or teachers or other important people in your life, you probably do not understand its importance or practice it in your daily life. Owners and operators who are not ’service minded’ look at their business as a simple transaction based enterprise. “I make you food, you pay me. Next!”  And you would think that given the natural selection process that exists in our industry that these attitudes would be, over time, yesterday’s news. But after reading several comments here, you realize that is not the case.

Creating a unique and exciting guest experience is the objective of high-level service operations. Whether it is Fast Food, (Truitt Cathy) Fine Dining (Charlie Trotter) or anything in between (Danny Meyer), successful owners and operators understand the battle for the each and every guest hinges on delivering a better guest experience. They build their entire operation around it. It’s in their DNA and therefore their businesses too. It permeates every aspect of not just what they do, but who they are. These are the truly service minded owners and operators and they are usually some of the most successful in the industry. People want to be around other people who make them feel good in general and during a ‘life event’ dinner especially.

Another core value I hold and Coach is that every time a guest comes to your establishment, they do so in the context of a ‘life event’. First date, last date, birthday, anniversary, new job, lost job, new car, time with friends, etc. Each and every guest visit is an event in their lives. If you understand this, and embrace it, then add something to it that is unexpected or above and beyond, or that simply allows them to enjoy the event more, you make them loyal, raving fans. Fail to add to their event and you are literally taking away from it, there is no middle ground with the guest experience. This may or may not be a conscious thing, but it registers that your place isn’t special or unique and they therefore seek out other places to visit and enjoy. The first place to make them feel great wins! And if you understand that people make their choices based on emotions more than anything else, you get this and you’ll experience more success because you do.

Logistically, if you can do something to accommodate a guest request, you should do it. Is it added stress to your production processes, maybe, but isn’t the next order that comes in added stress also? And the next? If you do not handle stress well, you shouldn’t be in the Restaurant business. The only reason you should ever give to a guest that you cannot do something is if you do not have the means by which to do it, or it is not in the best interest of the guest to do so (turning a high chair upside down so that the parent can place a child seat in it comes to mind! or serving a drink to an obviously inebriated guest).

If you do not have the production capability to accommodate different requests that are reasonable, then you have the wrong production capability. Likewise, if you do not have the talent to prepare a dish a different way that does not overload your production capabilities, then you have the wrong talent. Can you be prepared for everything? No. But unless you have flexibilities built into any of your plans, they aren’t really plans are they?

The corollary is that if you are not service minded when it comes to your guests, you most likely aren’t with your staff, managers, vendors, etc.  Also, your staff won’t deliver a superior experience either because you do not model it or expect it.

Superior service (experience) is more important than superior food. Superior service can overcome bad food, great food cannot overcome a bad experience. Argue all you want. But like the earlier quote in this thread, at the end of the day, if you don’t serve the guest, somebody else will.

This has nothing to do with how unique your operation is versus the guy down the street. We all produce an experience, that’s the product. Of course it’s different from one place to the next as are the personalities that produce it. And the idea that one guest doesn’t much matter is complete hogwash! This is a business were you fight for every single guest. We have talked gazillions of times about how much less of a cost it is to keep guests rather than trying to find new ones! I’ve heard lots of whining about how there is too much competition in our industry today, but never have I heard that there’s not enough.

Also, being accommodating isn’t ’special treatment’ it’s an extremely reasonable expectation! The demands of consumers in general today are getting more deeply defined – some call it more demanding go figure. And manipulation is the most sincere (worst) form of apathy and it doesn’t work.  Guests aren’t stupid.

You need to recalibrate your thinking and your culture to accommodate the demand by guests for establishing real relationships with the brands they support. Continue to treat each guest like a transaction and you’ll become irrelevant.

All this was inevitable. It’s the evolution of the social process and I think it’s about time. Culture changes. It’s a fact. Deal with it. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for those who are prepared to take advantage of it. But I guarantee you, if you do not like change, you will like irrelevance even less!

Learn more about the author, Jeffrey Summers.

Comment on this article

  • Brand Consultant 
Phoenix, Arizona 
Ken Peters
    Posted by Ken Peters, Phoenix, Arizona | Nov 04, 2009


    Excellent. Great advice for business owners in any industry. Consumers will pay a premium for a superior, branded experience and quality service is the quickest, easiest and most cost effective way to provide a superior branded experience.

  • Restaurateur 
Boston, Massachusetts 
Ted Stephens
    Posted by Ted Stephens, Boston, Massachusetts | Nov 05, 2009

    One of the most insightful discussions on service yet. Great post.

  • CTO 
Newport News , Virginia 
Del Putnam
    Posted by Del Putnam, Newport News , Virginia | Nov 06, 2009

    I've said it before (here: and you said it well in this post. Outstanding customer service is probably the best differentiator you can have as a business.

    Think about all of the businesses out there in crowded spaces that provide basically the same product or service. In that case, you can basically compete on price or quality of service. I'd MUCH rather compete on quality of service than on price. ...and so would your customers.

    Great post.

  • Award Winning Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author 
Fort Worth, Texas 
Jeffrey Summers
    Posted by Jeffrey Summers, Fort Worth, Texas | Nov 06, 2009

    Thanks Del. And you're right, although no one really competes on price alone, no matter what they might think. Being a commodity is a losing proposition.

  • Holistic Business Coach 
Portland, Oregon 
Taylor Ellwood
    Posted by Taylor Ellwood, Portland, Oregon | Nov 07, 2009

    Really good article. You're absolutely right about the quality of service and how it can make an impression. People want to be taken care of and great service shows that.

    Taylor Ellwood

  • Marketing 
Kansas City, Missouri 
John Jantsch
    Posted by John Jantsch, Kansas City, Missouri | Nov 07, 2009

    This is a very important idea - you can’t deliver a higher level of service than you have ever experienced - and one that any business should build into their DNA and training.

  • Award Winning Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author 
Fort Worth, Texas 
Jeffrey Summers
    Posted by Jeffrey Summers, Fort Worth, Texas | Nov 07, 2009

    @Taylor. Yes they do - and on their terms. Thank you for the comment and I appreciate the Tweet!

    @John. I think it's one of the most important ideas not yet realized by most businesses. Thanks for the comment!

  • Markitect 
Berlin, Connecticut 
Bill Doerr
    Posted by Bill Doerr, Berlin, Connecticut | Nov 07, 2009

    Good post, Jeffrey.

    My take-away is . . . 'It's the EXPERIENCE, Stupid!"

    You're always a gem of great ideas and thought-leadership in the areas that allow any business, with commitment, to be excellent and a force to be reckoned with . . . another excellent effort here.


  • Award Winning Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author 
Fort Worth, Texas 
Jeffrey Summers
    Posted by Jeffrey Summers, Fort Worth, Texas | Nov 07, 2009

    Hi Bill, I agree 100% about it being all about the guest experience...but that's another post. = )

    I really appreciate the kind words. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leaving a comment!