I was at dinner last night with my wife and our 12-year-old son. We went to a steakhouse, and I noticed a few mistakes from our waiter that I often see in business. When he approached the table, he did not smile. He was professional and courteous, but was simply stoic. He treated me with respect, referring to me as “Sir.” When he asked what my son wanted, he asked “What about the kid?” When ordering, my wife asked “I see that this one dish has this fish in it. Can I just get that fish grilled?” His answer was “Nope. It’s not on the menu.” Let me explain how each of these applies to business.

I Was Rooting for Him to Fail

By not smiling, he did not make a personal connection with our table. I found myself rooting for him to fail. If I am being honest with myself, I secretly hoped my steak was going to be overcooked so I could return the grumpiness. My wife asked for the fish. The restaurant had the product in house, and theoretically the culinary team that could easily prepare it. But, the server was focused on selling what was on his list of products, not serving the guest’s request.

Do you smile and personally engage with your customers? Do you take interest in their personal lives? Do you make an effort to engage? If not, they might be rooting for you to fail. The next lesson is just as critical. One of my first professional jobs was selling document imaging equipment to law firms. The technology was new, and we were selling the units for $80,000. Nobody was buying. One law firm asked “Can you charge us per page?” The VP of Sales said “No.” As a young professional, I asked “Why Not?” The explanation was that we needed to earn $80,000. I said “What if we charged $1 per page with a minimum of 20,000 pages per month?” We changed the pricing model and it was a huge success. Each machine generated over $120,000 of revenue, and the client was thrilled.

Bottom line, figure out how to say yes while not compromising your values. It would have been easy for the server or chef to meet our needs, but instead we left disappointed.

Look Beyond the Buyer

It was clear that the server was focused on me as the person paying the bill. However, by not showing respect to my wife or child, I was again rooting against him. Often I see salespeople and executives focused on the “decision maker” while ignoring the rest of the team. Rarely are decisions made by just one person anymore. Rather, the “decision maker” wants to ensure that none of her team is “rooting against” or opposed to the solution.

By treating my family members with something less than complete respect (the same respect we extended to him), he lowered my view of him. Treat each and every participant, as they are the most important person at that moment in time. The truth is, they are.

Adequate is Inadequate

The food was nicely prepared, and the flavors well developed. But, on a Saturday night when other restaurants did not have tables available, this restaurant was at fifty-percent capacity. The server was not rude, but was simply adequate. In today’s world of ever-increasing competition, adequate is quite simply inadequate. Though we had decent food, we had a less than ideal experience. Next time we will plan ahead and visit another restaurant where we know that their goal is to exceed all expectations, not merely be acceptable.

Pay Attention to What Matters

There were three managers circling the restaurant, chatting with each other and the staff. However, they must have just been in it for the exercise, since they did not pay attention to the guests or the tables. In fact, I did not see them stop and engage a single guest in the restaurant. You can spend all the time you want with your staff. But, don’t forget that the person who matters most is your client. Ask them about their experience, and you’ll be sure to achieve success and metaphorically fill your restaurant to capacity.

It’s Your Turn

What do you notice in a restaurant that could apply to your business?