Last week, I arrived at a small midtown cafe for a breakfast meeting with a prospective client. As I walked through the door, the host enthusiastically greeted me by name, (though I had never been there before), confirmed who I was there to meet (also by name), and escorted me with authentic familiarity to the table. His warm and engaging style made my prospect and I feel like old friends, and set the tone for an incredibly productive meeting. Throughout our meal, I noticed that he was truly trying to create a five-star experience for everyone who came in.
It’s always a delight to see someone going above and beyond in their job; and, it was clear to me that there was some organizational magic behind his system. I wanted to know how he did it. So, I decided to interview him.
Every good organizing system has a strong intention behind it, and Chris has a clear goal: he wants to make people feel special and seen. Mind you, it’s not easy to remain calm and centered when you’re dealing with hangry, coffee-deprived New Yorkers in a busy cafe. Chris does it through a graceful blend of tools, process and mindset.
The first step to Chris’ success, is that he prepares and plans for his day, the day before. Chris knows that 25% of the restaurant’s patrons use OpenTable (a popular app to make reservations), and he uses this to help him understand his reservations. Before heading home, he checks the next day’s reservations and learns guest names, party size, and any special notes that were written-in (like mine, ‘important business meeting’). Then, like a game of tetris, he use critical thinking to map out where he will seat the guests based on party size, arrival time, function and time of year -- tactfully leaving room for anticipated coats, briefcases and the flow of walk-in customers.
Another great process Chris has put into place, is assessing the day at the start, before diving in. At the beginning of his shift, he reviews the day’s schedule, checks for reservation updates, makes any needed adjustments and informs the kitchen and waitstaff of the plan so that everyone is ready. Throughout the day he carries his iPad to make adjustments, staying connected to his schedule and accommodating surprises, while being mindful to not get lost in the technology. He know that being fully present with the customer is a huge aspect of fulfilling the intention behind his system.
Because Chris’s goal is to make everyone feel truly special, he has also found ways to make sure that walk-in customers get the best experience he can. To give accurate wait time estimates, he leverages the time tracking tool on OpenTable to monitor the progression of meal stages at each table (e.g. drinks, appetizer, entree, dessert, check drop), using this is an opportunity to regularly check-in on client experience. Chris works the room, as they say, making all of his guests feel like a VIP.
Chris’ practices for balancing between the proactive and reactive transcend any and every work-place, and tap into a universal truth about how we can create systems that enable us to be fully present for those around us, and how we can help create an environment where others can do the same. The most beautiful thing Chris shared with me about his organizing system was his personal motivation: human connection.