Outsmart Your Competition With These 3 Essential Skills


Share on LinkedIn

Big Frankie comes into your restaurant.  You know the type, big guy, hands like a baseball mitt, a loud voice and brags about almost everything.  Big Frankie is always the star of the show wherever he goes and wants you to know it.


Tonight he comes in with a few of his buddies.  It’s show time…

You greet Frankie and his friends at the door and, since he’s a regular, he calls you by your name.  So far so good, hey Big Frankie’s a cool guy.  Frankie is trying to impress the boys so he wants to order for them all.  When one of his buddies didn’t like what Frankie ordered he asks you “hey Steve, what do you recommend?”

First sign of trouble, but you’ve got this. You know just what to recommend to one of your new buddies.  You make what seems to be a great suggestion,

I’m not that crazy with that dish either.  I highly recommend the 28oz porterhouse steak. 

It melts in your mouth and is my favorite thing that we make; you can’t go wrong with a Porterhouse”.  You even recommend your favorite bottle of red wine to go with it.

You just made Big Frankie’s friend very happy.  He says, “That sounds great Steve; I’ll take the steak and bring us a couple bottles of that wine you mentioned, thanks man”.   Score, you walk away thinking you did a great job and all is well.  You can count your big tip already…but Big Frankie is not happy.

Remember, Big Frankie wants to be the star of the show not you.  You just agreed with Frankie’s buddy that he apparently can’t choose a good dish.  Then you one-upped him by going with a high ticket item like the Porterhouse and wine too.  Big Frankie is not too happy ‘cause you just showed him up.  That steak better be great.

So now the food runner brings the meals out to Big Frankie’s table.  Since you are proud of your job you’ve done so far you walk with the runner, take the plates from him and serve the meals yourself.  Now the runner is not too happy with you because you just showed him up too.  Wow, tonight you’re not making too many friends!

Knives and forks start on the food and you easily see the’re enjoying the food.  Time to move on to the next table. You’ve got the warm fuzzies now because you made their night.  Yeah, who’s the man?  ME!

A little while later Big Frankie calls you over to complain about the Porterhouse.  “Hey bud, you recommended that steak and my friend don’t like it”, he says.  “Oh I’m very sorry what’s wrong with the steak” you ask Frankie’s friend.  “He just don’t like it, that’s all” Frankie bellows, not even giving his friend a chance to speak.

“Is it not cooked enough, I can get that re-fired for you if you want or is there anything else I can get for you?” you say.  “No, no, that’s ok” his friend finally speaks up.  “I’ll just finish the mashed potatoes and bread” he says.

You walk away from the table thinking that can’t be right.  Everybody loves the Porterhouse, why didn’t this guy like it?  Well maybe Big Frankie had something to do with it.  You showed him up remember?  But regardless, the guest didn’t like the steak, and he proved it since he left half on his plate.

You print the check and sheepishly drop it on the table.  “I’m not paying for that steak” Frankie says.  “You recommended it and it wasn’t good, I wanted to go with the veal chop” Frankie finishes.

Now you just lost.  Not only have you lost the sale of the Porterhouse but you potentially lost Big Frankie as a customer too – and most likely your tip.  There’s no way you can keep that on the check.  The guest only ordered the steak because you highly recommended it and said it melts in your mouth.  Well not tonight, not for this guest.

Looking back on this scenario, what happened?

You, as the service provider, were more concerned about “making the sale” than tending to the customer’s wants.  You forgot to read your customer.

Don’t be like the other cookie-cutter businesses that treat one customer like another.  Remember: one size doesn’t fit all.  Where is the customization?  How do you anticipate their needs?

outsmart the competition


In 2011, 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience

Source: Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow, 2010

Outsmart Your Competition With These 3 Essential Skills

 Trade Places With Them

According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they’re treated.  You just made Big Frankie feel inferior because you took the lead when he clearly wanted to be the star.

Even if you meant to help, that’s not service, it was too ego-driven.  Let the customer take the lead – you are there to serve and adapt to their wishes.

People Watching

Watch their expressions.  Watch their body language.  Watch how they visually scan the room – what are they looking for? Are they aggressive or relaxed, impatient or content, satisfied or yearning for more?  How can you help?

Your customer will broadcast signals that will clearly hint at their wants.
Click To Tweet

The Customer’s Needs Trump Your Own

Your opinions and likes are not important to the transaction.  The needs of the customer must always come first.  You can steer a specific product or service towards the customer if it satisfies the actual desire expressed.  But when there is doubt allow the customer to dictate the deal.

Sometimes giving away more than you want will lead to more than you ever expect.
Click To Tweet

This post is adapted from a chapter in the author’s bookEarn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift…Even If You’re a Bad Waiterand is printed here with permission.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve DiGioia
Steve uses his 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry to help companies and their employees improve service, increase morale and provide the experience their customers' desire. Author of "Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift...Even If You're a Bad Waiter" and named an "ICMI Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader" and a "Top Customer Service Influencer" by CCW Digital, Steve continues his original customer service, leadership and management-based writings on his popular blog.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here