My wife and I went out to dinner Friday night at a new restaurant in Boston called KO Prime. Its temporary website describes it as "a modern, creative interpretation of a traditional steakhouse with an energetic, sexy and chic atmosphere." As intimidating as that sounded, we thought we'd give it a try.
We showed up around eight o'clock without reservations. Although it was busy, the hostess was friendly and accommodating and sat us immediately. A busboy greeted us right away and quickly delivered water and bread. Then our waiter, Josh, introduced himself and asked if we'd been there before. Everyone was friendly and pleasant, but not in an in-your-face way.
Now if you don't already know it, Boston is a baseball town. The Red Sox have the best record in the majors and are on their way to their first division title since 1995. KO Prime's bar is separated from the dining room by a frosted-glass wall, but from where I was sitting, I could just see part of the bar's television. The Sox-Orioles game was on (with the sound off). I happened to look up as the benches cleared, and like any true Sox fan, I needed to know what was happening. With a sheepish apology to my wife, I got up and hurried over to the bar.
Everyone in the bar was staring at the screen, trying to figure out what was happening without the benefit of audio. (As I later learned, Baltimore pitcher Daniel Cabrera, agitated after Coco Crisp caused him to balk in a run, threw behind Dustin Pedroia, clearing the benches. No punches were thrown, Cabrera was tossed after throwing a complete nutty, and the game resumed.) This took at least five minutes to sort out. I said to the guy standing next to me that my wife was probably tiring of my having left her alone at the table. (Understandably.)
Turns out the guy was Phil Gerster, the restaurant manager. Without missing a beat, he called over to the bartender and asked for a glass of Champagne, then hand-delivered it to my wife (who was amused and mollified).
We chatted with Phil for a few minutes, and learned that he had been working in restaurants his whole life, starting out as a dishwasher. When we mentioned that everyone had been providing us excellent service, Phil gave us his management theory (I'm paraphrasing here):
It's all about the service. It doesn't matter if you have the best food in the world. If the people serving you are jerks, that's what you're going to remember. And you're not going to come back.
And Phil is absolutely right. Our food was great. But what will bring us back in the future — and more importantly, what will lead us to tell others about it (and to write this post), was the friendly, thoughtful service we received. In addition to Phil's marriage-salvaging Champagne, we had:
- Josh, the waiter, unsolicitedly opening a new bottle of great Shiraz to give me a taste (at no charge) when I happened to mention that I usually drank that variety of wine. (The Malbec he recommended with my ribeye, a Navarro Correas Alegoria 2004, was amazing.)
- The busboy quipping in accented English that the aforementioned ribeye — which had a 14-inch bone sticking out of it — looked like something out of "The Flintstones."
- The hostess, while we were all watching the Red Sox nonfisticuffs and some new guests arrived, telling me that she would rather see what happened with the game. (She was kidding, and she greeted the guests just as warmly as she'd greeted us.)
You've heard the marketing expression "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." It applies to the workplace, too. While your company's product or service is the steak, your employees are the sizzle that will keep people coming back. Keep that in mind when you're hiring employees.