03 March 2014 ~ 1 Comment

Emergency Coffee

emergency-mugA few weeks ago I was in San Diego taking a few vacation days after delivering three workshops at the DogWatch Hidden Fence annual Dealer conference in Huntington Beach, California.

My fiance and I had asked an employee at The Nat gift shop if she could recommend any local restaurants near our hotel, and without hesitation named Cafe 21 as the place we had to visit for breakfast the next morning.

Now, I expected the food to be good based on a recommendation like that (and it was — incredibly tasty!) but what I wasn’t expecting was the early morning sense of humor from our server. I am NOT a morning person and need at least one cup of coffee to warm up my mood enough for communicating with other humans with more than a grunt or two, but the Cafe 21 server snapped me out of my grump with one question:

“Would you like to hear about our specials — or do you need an emergency coffee first?”

Say whaaa?
I’ve been asked if I wanted coffee before, and I’ve been assaulted with daily specials and asked what I’d like to order before enough time was given to crack open the menu, but here was a common question asked in an uncommon way. And with uncommon humor.

How simple! How brilliant! How simply brilliant!

Yes, I replied — I definitely need an emergency coffee.
And within moments she had a cup poured for me.

That opening question set the pace for our interaction throughout our meal.
I was friendlier to her and teased her about keeping the coffee cup full throughout the breakfast. She appreciated the humor and was helpful with menu suggestions. She even made a recommendation about other places we might visit during our stay in San Diego. I let her know we’d received the recommendation to eat at Cafe 21 from the museum employee and she was appreciative to hear about the good word of mouth from others — and now I’m telling you about cafe 21 as well.

The server was well-rewarded with a ridiculously generous gratuity, but my guess is she earns those all day long with an attitude of helpful humor like hers.

The real benefit to the company is in the story they gave me to go out and share with others about both the server AND the restaurant (and my emergency coffee.) There was no coupon, there was no first-time diner discount — just a great attitude and an effort to be friendly to strangers (who just happen to want to spend money with your company.) It cost the restaurant nothing to be friendly (versus “professional”) and it won a customer and word-of-mouth marketer who now wants to help other people learn about the restaurant.

The next time you need an excellent breakfast and an emergency cup of coffee — visit Cafe 21 in San Diego!