Today I got a good old fashioned lesson in great customer service and it all started with pie.
Brittani and I were wandering through a neighborhood and decided to have breakfast at a meat and three. The humbly named Sylvan Park Restaurant was our choice for one this particular beautiful late Saturday morning.
I hadn’t eaten breakfast there, only lunch, on several occasions over the last few years. We argued whether or not they were open for breakfast but noticed a slew of cars in the parking lot and knew we needed to give it a try. Immediately after sitting down, we were enveloped by the dated decor and incredibly reasonably priced menu. It was really a trip back in time.
This wasn’t my first trip to Sylvan Park Restaurant. A few years ago, my sister from Pittsburgh had come to visit. While we were there the waitress offered us lemon meringue pie. She was insistent on telling us about how the pies were made fresh and in such high demand that they would have to separate literally hundreds of eggs each week just in order to keep up.
The pie was delicious and the time and care that the waitress took to tell us the story about separating eggs became a bit of a thing between my sister and me. Each year we would take turns buying each other a different type of egg separating gadget to celebrate the memory of our visit to the restaurant. The waitress’s story left a lasting impression on us about the hospitality of Nashville and the quality of food at the restaurant.
As I was paying for our breakfast this morning, I walked by a glass cooler filled with beautiful coconut creme and pecan pies with a white board sign above it listing all of the day’s fresh pies. In an effort to remind my sister of our memorable encounter, I took out my cell phone to snap a photo to later send to her. Before I could even return my phone to my pocket, a member of the restaurant staff, a lady in her 60’s with blue jeans and a simple “Sylvan Park Restaurant” t-shirt walked over and exclaimed, “What are you doing!?”
Quickly, feeling guilty, I tried to explain to her how much my sister in Pittsburgh loved their pies and that I was going to send her the picture to remind her of our long ago visit. She looked at me calmly with a smile, looked over at Brittani and then leaned in and softly asked me, “would you like to take one home?”
I sighed with great relief. The lady had taken me totally by surprise; I was overwhelmed with gratitude. “Of course!” I emphatically replied.
The lady disappeared into the back of the restaurant, brought a cardboard box for the pie, began folding it and very carefully and skillfully placed one of the coconut creme pies inside. As she came over to present us with her offering, she made sure that we would go straight home to place it in the refrigerator.
We were so surprised by her act of generosity, we didn’t know what to do or what to say. I presented her with a $5 tip as a token of my appreciation. I didn’t want to offend her hospitality by offering to pay for the pie, but I wanted to make sure she understood how grateful I was. As I was about to walk away, Brittani asked her the simplest of questions, “What’s your name?”
“Regina,” she replied. “My sister owns this place.”
She went on to explain the that the restaurant is closed on Sunday and they don’t always sell out of pie on Saturday but she wanted to make sure this particular one had a home to go to tonight.
Although I will never understand why the lady thought to surprise me by offering such a lovely treat, her hospitality and thoughtfulness will leave me talking about that restaurant and my particular experience for years and years to come. That one moment. That one exercise of selflessness and thoughtfulness will always remain with me each and every time I see an ice box full of pie.
It doesn’t matter what you sell, how much it costs or who is there to buy it, if you want to create a strong and positive reputation for your business, treat your customers with respect. Every once in a while, do something special because the special moments are the ones that get shared.