There are many phrases that come out when it comes to establishing a paradigm of great guest service. “The guest is always right”, “Never say no to a guest”, and most recently my favorite “The Guest is the Boss!” First, before continuing, I must agree with all of the statements above. I am a guest first operator and believe that you have got to take care of your most important client, your Guest!!

Working for a National chain often gives me the opportunity to speak on this topic, hold coaching sessions, and train our newest management and team members on this philosophy. Just a few short days ago I found myself really looking deeper into “The Guest is the Boss” mentality. I thought to myself, first, who actually is my boss so I can sink my teeth into what this truly means. Well in my current position, the folks above me come with names like Senior Vice President of Operations or Regional Vice President or even bigger yet…Chief Executive Officer. Now it isn’t often that I get visited by these Heads of State, but when I do, I know they are coming. I mean, really, when was the last time George Bush snuck up on anyone. Same goes in my Company, no CEO could get that close without warning signals similar to an invasion of the Marine facility at Guantanamo Bay. So, for a moment, I truly looked at what I do when I know the big dogs are coming to visit. First the phone call, “hey guys, you’re not going to believe it but the CEO, SRVP, and RVP are coming.” Natural first response, “Yeah, okay, sure, I’ll believe it when I see it.” After some prodding and “no really” they begin to believe me. We then go through a vague checklist of hot buttons. Landscaping, cleanliness, fully staffed, big smiles on everyone’s faces, aces in their places, verbal descriptions of what they look like so all the “newbie’s” have an idea of the momentous occasion awaiting them. We always have at least some sort of idea when they are coming-sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner, maybe we will get lucky and they will hit in that slow transitional time between lunch and dinner when we can really show off. Sometimes we even plan to keep on a few extra team members despite the cost just so the Boss can see what we are really made of…right? The jungle drums are beating in the other restaurants in the area. They just left the 1st and Broadway location…I think they are coming your way. Here we go…lights, cameras, action! Every one in their places. Hosts make sure you are smiling, Servers be on top of those fast greets, Bartenders make sure the glasses are frosty. Cooks, that food has to look perfect, hot food piping hot, cold food really, really cold.

The moment has come, they have arrived. Everything goes off without a hitch. The Boss is so impressed. His service is the friendliest it has ever been, his food looks just like those training pictures, and it came out faster than he has ever seen before in one of his restaurants. Life is goooood! We won’t have to do that again for awhile.

Then it happens, one of our brand new employees, only with us for a week is walking by with her trainer and I overhear her say, “Man, imagine what this place would be like if we treated everyone like that.”

Let’s pause for a moment of silence; an epiphany is making its way into my head. So that’s what they mean by treating the guest like the Boss. Now it is sinking into this thick skull of mine. I call a employee shift meeting to share my new found discovery. They all look at me like I am stupid when I tell them what I have just learned. Then it hits me again, they already knew about it, they were just waiting for us to really mean it and deliver on the message.

Well I have got it now and I am ready the next day to really treat every guest like they are the Boss. The next day comes and I am as enthusiastic as a pig in a fresh mud pile. I’m telling the cooks, remember that food you put out last night for the CEO? We are going to do that for every guest today. Hot food Hot, cold food cold and make it look just like the picture too! The cooks look at me like I am off my rocker. What’s this guy been drinking? I tell the Host team on that day, Big Smiles, greet everyone like they are your grandmother you haven’t seen in 5 years. Servers, get to those tables in 60 seconds or less-run if you have too!! Nobody waits for anything today. Get whatever they need before they ask for it. Bartenders, make those drinks like your life depended on it. Frosty mugs, fresh garnishes, run it to the table yourself if that is what it takes. And last but not least, I will visit every table that comes in today to make sure they had the best experience ever in this restaurant or any restaurant for that matter. Again, the staff is looking at me like, “Is he being medicated?”

Well I am sure you know how that shift went right….it was one of the best I have ever had, the guest compliments were flowing, and I didn’t have to take one thing off anyone’s tab because it didn’t meet their expectations. The staff was in a great mood, I was in a great mood, and guess what; the Boss was in a great mood too.

Wow, what an experience, I thought I could go on the motivational speaking circuit just with this story. My concern, no one would believe my story, I mean I only had one shift that I treated the guest like the boss, which really wasn’t much of an accomplishment, anybody can do that. I decided to hold off on my speaking career and try to put my second day together treating the guest like the boss and then maybe a third, then a fourth, and well just make that the standard of business. My restaurants were going to be the best in the entire chain if I could pull this off. I wouldn’t need to go on the speaking circuit, they would come to me to find out how we did it and I would have the answer!!

I mean, heck, if I could treat the guest like they were the Boss, maybe I should act like I owned the place. Hey wait a minute maybe I’ve got something here.

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Comment by Jay Larson on March 3, 2008 at 11:34am
I love your appraoch here Andy. You are creating an environment that gives them permission to serve others the way they always knew they should! I have found, in my work with The FISH! Philosophy, that the employees always know what needs to happen to bring about greater success to the business and in this case a fabulous customer experience. Tap into their energy and they will keep it going. Great stuff!

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