The Devil is in the Details

I like trying new restaurants.  It’s fun to assess not only the food, but the overall atmosphere.  I always notice how courteous the staff is.  I always notice how clean the place is (especially the bathrooms and the dishes).  I always notice how happy the other patrons are. It’s amazing how all of the little things add up to form your initial opinion – one that will do a lot to determine whether or not you’ll ever come back.

This past weekend I was in Bennington, Vermont.  We couldn’t find the chic cafe we planned on eating in (I wrote down the address wrong), so we walked in to a place called Carmody’s Irish Pub in downtown Bennington.  I’d never heard of the place, I didn’t know anyone who had been there, and I never read a review of it.  The menu posted outside the door looked intriguing and it looked like there were other people in there, so we walked in.

The food was great.  They had a ton of unique dishes on the menu, my choice perhaps being the most unique: pork loin wrapped in bacon and covered in a maple syrup sauce.  Being that we were in VT, the home of great maple syrup, I had to get that.  It might sound weird, but trust me, it was awesome.  But that’s not why I’m writing about the place.  Lot’s of places have great food.  Here are a list of other things I noticed while I was there:

  • The waitress helped us immediately.  She asked for our drink orders right away.  She returned a few minutes later with our drinks and some bread.  Sounds simple, but the very next day I waited 20 minutes for my waitress to ask me for my drink at a different restaurant.
  • Speaking of the beverages, they were in squeaky clean glasses with the Carmody’s logo in them.  The glasses looked like they were bought earlier that day.  Most of the time I order a drink at a pub-style place I wonder if the glasses had even been cleaned since the last use.
  • Despite how busy it was (the place was eventually packed), the staff all seemed genuinely happy.  Everyone looked like they really enjoyed working there.
  • When we first walked in, the owner was walking around sweeping the floors.  Then he seated a couple who was waiting.  Then he helped bus a table.  Throughout most of the rest of our meal he was interacting with the locals, who seemed to love him and his place.  When we got up to leave he was in the back.  He noticed we were walking out and he made it a specific point to race up to the front to thank us for coming and wish us a good night.  How many owners do that? Especially when their place is packed on a Saturday night.  It was an amazing feeling.

Now,  his business doesn’t have a lot in common with us, except for this one universal business truth: every single detail about your business matters, and this business had all of them down pat.  When you run a local pub in a small town like Bennington, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that you need to develop strong relationships with the locals.  It speaks volumes to this commitment that the owner is there on a Saturday doing everything he can to help out and make his customers feel like they’re at home.  If you ask me why I’ll be going back, that has as much to do with it as the great food does.

In comparison, a relatively young business like ours isn’t nearly as good with all of the details.  I’m envious of the maturity that he has with his company.  We leave a lot on the table because we’re still putting our systems in place.  We’re constantly forced to intentionally neglect details because there are more important things that demand our immediate attention.  Over time this will change.  For example, last year we barely ran any specials for the holidays.  This year Mike has developed a rather sophisticated sales plan to make sure we hit Black Friday and the rest of the holiday season pretty good.  But in our meeting yesterday, we had ideas that we want to do that we just don’t have the time to implement until next year.  By then, we’ll probably have a few employees and be able to take it a step further.  Eventually we’ll catch up to what the best online retailers are doing, and hopefully be spending all of our time testing out unique ideas that we’ve never seen done.

I think it’s important to realize that you need to focus primarily on the highest revenue generating tasks when you first start out.  But I think it’s equally as important to pay attention to every single detail as you grow.  Over the next year we’ll be overhauling everything we do.  At first it was about getting the feature up and running.  Now it’s becoming about refining it so it’s the best possible feature we can have.

2 comments on The Devil is in the Details

  1. Jun Loayza says:

    That’s great how you notice these things because I always do it too.

    There is this place in Westwood called IsoCafe, and I always go there because of their free Wi-fi. The food is ok, but the service is HORRIBLE!!! They come and bring you food, but they don’t bring you utensils! You have to get up and get them yourself. The manager never says hi to people and tries to ignore everyone as much as possible.

    The only reason I go is because they’re the only free wi-fi in the area. If I was a restaurant owner, I would own Westwood by creating a free wi-fi spot with excellent customer service.

    Anyways, just wanted to tell my story

    Jun Loyaza

  2. Adam McFarland says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who notices this stuff Jun 🙂

    You presented the flip side: how a place with good food and free wi-fi can still be a turn off if they don’t treat you well.

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