We Sat at the Restaurant an Extra Hour and No One Ever Came By

The wait staff may have been indifferent or clueless. But I’ve got to believe that the owner would’ve lost it had he found out.

And I’m guessing this sort of things happens all the time in most every other business.

To set the stage, a good friend and I met up at Clutch, a restaurant in nearby Venice (California, not Italy…). At 2pm, it would be a late lunch for me, but there were a decent number of folks seated. My friend wasn’t eating, so I ordered and started eating before she’d even arrived. Halfway through the meal, she arrived. The waitress asked if she wanted anything (she didn’t), and asked if I wanted another beer — I said not now, but I might in a bit. (And yes, I was drinking a beer at a late lunch on Friday. Back off…)

We shared a dessert and closed out the tab.

We then sat at the table for another hour talking. Having worked in a restaurant before, I’m mindful of taking up seats, but there was no crowd and so we weren’t pulling any business from them by sitting around.

But here’s the amazing thing and the missed opportunity.

Not once after we’d closed out the tab did someone come by to ask if we wanted anything. No water. No following up since I’d said I might want another drink earlier. And since we were there an hour, that might even be due cause to ask if we had gotten hungry again. But nothing. Nada.

Sure, it’s nice not to “be bothered.” But if you ask in a respectful way, there’s absolutely a way for the wait staff to ask if we wanted something. I’d argue that someone should do so every 20 minutes. At least get a verbal “I’ll let you know if we need anything else.”

And here’s the bigger thing. How many other times across numerous areas in the restaurant, or in your company, is there missed opportunity. We’re talking about live people who have purchased something just sitting around. The ask doesn’t get easier.

It doesn’t even matter what our response would’ve been in this particular case. Getting a yes is a numbers game to a certain extent. But you’ve got to ask the question.

And I liken asking the question to advertising. People think no one wants to get asked the question. Just like many people think no one wants to see advertising. When in fact that’s absolutely not the case. People love seeing ads. The ones that are relevant to them. Or entertaining. Or inspirational. People just hate seeing bad ads. One that have nothing to do with them. And getting pestered incessantly by them. Just like when people are being pestered by a salesperson. Or wait staff.

But if someone is in your place of business (whether physical or online), and especially when they’ve bought, it’s reasonable to say they are interested and half-way expecting an ask. Doesn’t have to be a rude ask. But an ask nonetheless.

And if you’re a business owner, don’t be so sure your people are doing so. That’s why the secret shopper is an important test to run. Or going through your own site as if you were a new customer, full through to buying and then even returning or cancelling.

As you scale, you have to put some trust in the people on the team, whether 1 level down or 5. That’s one area leverage comes from. But in my opinion, you also need to balance that with a healthy sense of paranoia to check on your business, especially when it comes to sales and customer experience.

You just might find out that that your people, or your site, isn’t going in for the ask. And that kind of missed opportunity is one of the most frustrating. But it can turn an expensive miss into a win.

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Caith Chapman
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