As you know, I love the Reuben at the Blue Fig, and I love the people that work there, but the other day the owner Shirene was away, and the place was a mess. Brimming with chatty customers out for lazy eats on a Saturday morning, it seemed half of them were complaining. The woman next to me sighed, “It’s been half an hour!” The guy on the other side called the waitress to his table. “I have to leave! It’s been 30 minutes.” I think it had been more than that for me. My coffee was near empty and I was starting to get the jitters as I wrote this article.
Have you ever felt that pressure? When you can’t deliver what you said you’d deliver, and there they are waiting for you to deliver?
I nervously glanced at the cook and servers who were moving as quickly as humanly possible. Messengers fanned out onto the floor to apologize. Soon, the couple next to me rose to leave. A waitress ran to them with their meal packed in a carton, “I am so sorry, please have this on the house.” The guy looked at me and winked, “She’s not going to buy that at all,” referring to his wife who was fed up and promptly ripped into the waitress about how to run a business.
I started to giggle and quickly acted like I was watching a video on my laptop. I even pointed to it for reinforcement sensing the wife’s angry gaze.
I can get pretty involved in stuff like this. I asked the folks behind the counter and in the kitchen, “How does Shirene do it? How does she handle the rush of Saturday mornings? We must solve this mystery or we are doomed!” I didn’t say that last part, but I was thinking, they should. Shrugs. Must be magic.
Advice from above.
The crowd thinned out. I was jagging by the time Shirene’s mother brought my plate over (finally) and sat down. I love her Jordanian accent and her curt wisdom. “That was bad. It’s simple what would have made everything better. People wait an hour at some restaurants. They wait an hour to sit then another hour to eat.”
I waited. Then she delivered:
“People are willing to wait if they expect to wait. You just have to tell them to wait. Then, they’ll wait.”
Oh. Right. Set expectations. Stress can make it hard to remember the basics.
I have to tell you, sometimes the best thing I can put on my Week’s Plan is telling a client I’m going to be late. It can be the whole key to removing stress from the rest of the week. It looks like this.
Breadwinner __ Tell Vijay, it’ll be Monday afternoon.
Note: When it comes to waiting in line it seems 30 minutes is a turning point in patience. Myth or not, there’s a common notion that airline customer negotiators (ticket agents) are trained to tell people, “It’ll be another 30 minutes or so,” no matter how long they think it will be. They tell passengers every 20 minutes or so in order to keep them from pulling out the nunchucks or finding another flight.
Here’s another thing about making people expect to wait: It makes them want you even more.
With plenty of room to sit and wait, The Blue Fig needed a different kind of problem that day. Had they told the throngs, “It’ll be about 30 minutes,” the words of Yogi Berra might have been more apt:
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
A simple lesson, a simple request.
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David Delp’s Pilot Fire articles have been really helpful to me. Check them out! http://pilotfire.com/ @pilotfire