A Tale of Two Restaurants

by Andy Wood on November 28, 2008

in Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

A few years ago I was Birmingham, Alabama at lunch time, so I decided to eat at a favorite restaurant there.  I had been to this place quite a few times, and had always enjoyed the food and service there.

Until this time.

The host (a new guy) sat me at the table, and informed me that my server would soon be there to take my “quick lunch” order.  So I looked over the menu.

No server.

I closed the menu (a popular hint).

No server.

I thought about memorizing the menu before the server got there.  I could have succeeded.

I was sitting close enough to the front door to see the host who seated me.  I looked plaintively at him, and he returned to ask if my server had come.  Gasp!  He hadn’t?  He’ll be here in a couple of minutes.
I should probably tell you that this restaurant had plenty of people waiting tables.  Plenty of hosts, too.  I must have counted a half-dozen times that someone close to me had their order taken, or their food served.  But nobody paid any attention to me.

This turned into a game.  I set a point on my watch and decided that if no one came to my table by that point, I would leave.  Not angry.  Just gone.

Wouldn’t you know it?  About 60 seconds before I was to bid farewell, my server arrived.  I figured he was mine all along; he had walked right past my table about four times.  He apologized, sort of, and said he thought my table was in someone else’s territory.

A week later, I was in Birmingham, at lunch time again.  I decided to check out a barbeque place I had never been to before.

I promise, I will be back.

The place was noisy and busy.  I had to wait a couple of minutes for a table.  But after I sat down, my eyes never moved beyond the front page of the paper I was reading.  One lady showed me my table, and took my drink order.  Another server, a man, came and took my food order, after he made sure someone had taken my drink order.  Yet a third server delivered the food.  A fourth person breezed by with the tea pitcher.  (I have a slogan:  “The measure of the waiter is in the refills of the tea.”  Profound, huh?)  The man who took my food order must have been my designated server, because he brought me the check and took my money.  He also refilled my tea glass two more times.  And all the while, standing close by was a guy who never said a word to me.  But he kept “floating” around the restaurant, seeing to it everyone’s needs were met.  I’ll guarantee you, not once did that guy hear anyone say, “That’s not my table!”

I may go back to the first restaurant.  After all, nobody’s perfect, and anybody can have a bad day.  But I will certainly return to the second.

I was made to feel important.  My needs were met.  I was noticed – “tended to” – not by one individual, but by many.  In the midst of the crowd, the noise, and the employees running everywhere, I think they were truly happy I was there.

I know I was.

Oh, yeah!  The food was good, too.

Gee whiz, Wally!  I wonder if that works for churches, too?

Or customer service/tech support departments?

Or nonprofits?

Or families?

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