On a recent trip to attend a wedding, my husband and I stopped at a small regional seafood restaurant, Steamboat Bill’s in Lake Charles LA for a quick Cajun lunch. What happened when we arrived was a fascinating interaction with the hostess. She beautifully and masterfully drove operational efficiency, educated new customers, enhanced experiences, introduced an upsell opportunity, and increased client throughput. Probably not terms restaurant consultants use, but I don’t work with restaurants. Hopefully, you get this idea: She accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time.
There are several takeaways from our interaction for business owners and leaders. So, let’s dissect her deviations from the typical hostess-type conversations.
It is not unusual for a hostess to ask whether you are a return customer or a first timer. Most conversations stop there, but not ours. What she did next was brilliant. She specifically asked how we learned about them, which was through a recommendation from a friend. “Be sure to tell them ‘thank you’ for us. We have grown to four locations based on word-of-mouth.” It was the beauty of gratitude, followed by the subtle message of “be like the cool kids and recommend us to your friends.” When she learned we were Texans, she quickly pointed out that one of their locations was in Pearland near Houston planting the seed for future sales.
Have you ever been in a long line stuck behind someone who couldn’t decide what they wanted to order? Alternatively, how about learning after you get your food that there are no places to sit only to see squatters saving seats for people still in line? It’s annoying, frustrating, and ruins the entire experience. Steamboat Bill’s hostess politely directed us not to commit these fast food cardinal sins. “We ask that you place your order before being seated.” Moreover, “If you need more time to decide, there is a bench over here.” And Voila! Ordering efficiency.
She closed the conversation with the upsell handing us a flyer to peruse while waiting for our food advising that we may want to order something else. She subtly implies that people order more food all the time.
Steamboat Bill’s didn’t hire a typical, average hostess, but they invested in customer guide responsible for creating a quintessential first impression that would lead to repeat business. Are you designing your clients first impressions? Subsequent engagements? Are there ideas that you can steal from Steamboat Bill’s?