A pitcher of Diet Coke, 250 humid yards and a sippy cup

One of the things that restaurants put tons of effort and money into is creating an experience for their patrons that makes people tell their friends.

No, it isn’t just the food. In many cases, it isn’t the food at all. Of course, others concentrate solely on the food.

Despite all that effort and expense, little things can transform an experience into something that will have you telling friends and family – or perhaps, writing about as I am.

Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads

Eleven of us sat down to dinner on the lake last night at White River Fish House in Branson. We barely made it in the door before they stopped seating at 8 p.m. Branson is not Las Vegas as far as timetables are concerned.

It would have been easy for our waitress to go through the motions serving a big group who walked in as the last seating of the day on a Sunday. Large groups mean a guaranteed 18% tip in most restaurants. Unless her service merited a complaint, she’d walk away with a decent sized tip from a group this big.

At first I just wasn’t sure, but little things started giving away that Lorraine had her game face on.

When she got to me and asked for a drink order, I was ready. After a long three days at Silver Dollar City, on the lake and a sweltering, humid midday round of golf, I still felt dehydrated and was very thirsty.

When she asked for my drink order, I was still standing while helping clean up a 7 year old’s spilled lemonade.

I held my hands above each other about 2 feet apart and asked Lorraine for a Diet Coke “about this big”.  She replied “We only have one size” and I thought she had missed her chance to do one of those little things, or be funny or something.

I was wrong.

When Lorraine brought the drinks, she brought me two.

When she brought refills, she brought me two.

Smart. Not only was she thinking about my request, but she was saving trips to the drink station and thus increasing the speed that other things happened. I never had to ask for a refill, which is how it should be.

After the 3rd cup of Diet Coke was gone (I *said* I was thirsty), she brought a pitcher and put a straw in it.

She never said a word about any of this, it just happened and these things just appeared in front of me – often without me noticing until a moment later.

Everyone around me got a kick out of it, and I appreciated the special care – even for this little tiny thing like a drink.

Later, the food came (I had the catfish, which was very lightly breaded, not deep fried and darned tasty) and before too long, we finished up our meal.

Lasers (Note: Say that with your “Doctor Evil voice”)

We didn’t spend a pile of time in the “after-meal” because there’s a laser show in a fountain in the complex near the restaurant – something all the kids wanted to check out.

With that in mind, the tab was paid and out the door we went. I suspect the restaurant staff hustled to close up so they could go home after a long, hot weekend.

About 250 yards down the plaza at the laser show location, Lorraine comes walking up out of the darkness staged around the laser show area.

She’s holding a sippy cup. The little 2 year old had dropped it under the table and we had left without noticing it.

At the end of her shift after a long, hot, busy weekend, at a time when most would have been focused on counting their tips, closing out their register and heading for home, Lorraine remembered that we mentioned the laser show and walked the 250 yards each way on a warm, humid evening just to find us and deliver a 2 year old’s sippy cup.

Her thoughtful, extra effort made an impression on the entire group that will no doubt be repeated elsewhere as well as written about here.

It was just a generic two-dollar sippy cup that the little guy wouldn’t have missed, but like those famous Mastercard ads, she made it priceless.

What’s your staff doing to make your clientele’s experience priceless?

How do you determine which applicants are the ones with the “stuff” to do the little things?

It matters, now more than ever.

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