OMG – I can’t believe he missed that!!


During a recent dinner out with friends, I couldn’t believe the service opportunity that was missed by the restaurant manager.  It was right there, set up for him beautifully, and he missed it. If he were playing wiffle ball, people would have said that he “whiffed”.

Especially in this day and age when companies and brands are FIGHTING for customer loyalty, it’s hard to imagine that he would let this opportunity slip right down the drain.

But he did.

Let me set the stage: We were eating at an establishment that had an advertized promotion/policy that if a Manager did not stop by your table to check on things, then you get $10 off your next visit.  (To me this sounds like a strange attempt to motivate the Managers to do what they should already be doing, but that’s another topic for another time).

As it turned out, our friends had been to a different location in this restaurant chain, and had NOT received a visit from the Manager.  Nor had there been any follow-up on the $10 offer when they mentioned it.

So, when the Manager of this restaurant stopped by our table, my friend jokingly said something about the $10 off.  It was all very lighthearted, and I don’t REALLY think my friend was expecting the $10 – he just wanted to have some fun with the guy.  The managers reaction at first was okay, saying, “I’m so sorry that happened, my name is Kevin and please let me know if I can do anything for you tonight.”

To which my friend says, “Okay, how about $5 off the bill for tonight?”.  Again, this was said in a joking, lighthearted manner.  And here comes the whiff…

The Manager says, “Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to do that.” Then he smiled and walked away.

Did that just happen?  Did a guest just deliver a loyalty building experience to you on a sliver platter and you turned it down?  I was a little dumbfounded.

I thought about the “not at liberty” statement for a while.  That could have been code for many things, such as:

  • I don’t want to
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know how
  • I don’t think you deserve it
  • I can’t fix something here that didn’t happen here
  • I’m not allowed to
  • I’ll get in trouble

I’ll bet if we didn’t like our food or the service was lousy, or we made a big stink, that he would have jumped at the chance to knock $5 off our bill.  That would have been the easy way out. Yet he still chose not to, even though he has the power and the capability to do so.  Why?

I would imagine there is something broken or underdeveloped in his skills as a manager, or more likely in the edict and communication from the corporate office about what managers are truly empowered to do and what they are not empowered to do.  There was no latitude for out-of-the-box thinking here, which could have made a huge difference.

What if he said, “great idea, sir, I am going to take $5 off your bill tonight”?  I think we would have been pleasantly surprised, if not stunned. Maybe he would have gotten in trouble from “corporate”, but he would have created a memorable situation that we would want to talk about (in a good way).  The question is: what is a bunch of free promotion and positive word of mouth advertising worth to your business?  More than 5 bucks?  Then you better let your managers make the call that would create those kind of situations.

It’s hard enough in business today to try to anticipate or guess what our guests want.  So when it’s delivered to you all wrapped up and tied with a bow, you gotta take it.

Thanks for reading!

About the author: Matt Heller has a passion for helping leaders in the attractions industry get the most out of themselves and their teams.  One of his specialties is coaching leaders one-on-one to get through their specific roadblocks.  If you are hitting a wall, give Matt a call (rhymes optional).

2 thoughts on “OMG – I can’t believe he missed that!!

  1. I cringed when I read “Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to do that.” Missed service opportunities (especially those that only cost FIVE BUCKS!) can be the difference between long-term loyalty and never returning again. Saying that he was “not at liberty” clearly meant that either there are bigger problems above him or that he was flat out lying. On top of that, he offered assistance and then took it back. Even if he would have counter-offered a free dessert, he would have left a satisfactory impression and even spent less than the $5 requested!

    Good read!

    • Thanks, Josh – and right on the money (no pun intended!). It didn’t even dawn on me that he offered assistance then took it back – good observation. Yeah, that does make it worse. This dude could use a dose of the Pineapple!

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