Eat, Watch, Type

 In Small Business

At the time of this writing, I am sitting in a Chick-fil-A restaurant in St. Augustine, Fla., working on email newsletters and trying not to be overly distracted by the surprisingly compelling interaction between the eager-to-please staff and the waves of “guests” filling the dining area.

Typical fast-food service this is not. Associates wander purposefully through the restaurant handing out mints and packaged wet wipes and asking if they can refill drinks or take waffle fry cartons as they are voraciously emptied.

Food is delivered to tables – even if it is not delayed. Smiles are abundant and phrases like “my pleasure” and “have a blessed day” are repeated without a hint of insincerity or rote duty.

The place is crawling with small children, most headed for the glass-separated play area, but instead of being treated like a nuisance, they are dodged with deftness and smiles like they were nieces and nephews visiting for Thanksgiving weekend. (And since there is no football on, none of the dads seem bothered, either.)

I am certain this environment is not unique to this particular location, but it is the first time I have spent several hours observing one. You cannot grasp the commitment to this level of customer service during a 20-minute visit. It never lets up. It never wanes. It never stops because it is not an act, it is a culture.

It is indeed an amazing example of what selling out to customer service can look like – and getting employees to buy into it. People don’t get a meal at Chick-fil-A, they get an experience. And that is not something easily had for around $5 a person.

P.S. The reason I spent hours in a Chick-fil-A in another town by myself is because about six months ago, I promised my three teenage daughters that they could go to a concert in St. Augustine.  Not sure why. I guess it was one of my weaker moments. They loved it, though, and I love them. Guess that is reason enough.

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