Dad and the Pickles at Einsteins

When my Dad was here in Delaware visiting a couple of months ago, we went out to lunch. I asked where he’d like to go with the world of food at his disposal (not the case when he’s in Hampton, New York). He couldn’t remember the name of the place but to my surprise he knew exactly where he wanted to go: Einstein Bros. Bagels, which he requested this way: “The place with the bagel dogs.”

Four quick points to use in your business:

1. All the way from Hampton, all the way from six-plus months before, Dad remembered he wanted to eat there because of the bagel dogs. He couldn’t remember their name but he had no hesitation about where to go, and as we drove he raved all the way there, wishing they had something similar near him. I reminded him of Bruegger’s, my personal fave, near Glens Falls, NY, but it is (a) too far from Hampton for a casual lunch; (b) too risky in his mind—turns out he doesn’t really wish there were something similar, he actually wants an Einstein’s; (c) unlucky enough to be located in the same parking lot as something he’d rather eat, if he has gone all the way to Glens Falls for an errand. Do you have something so remarkable going on in your firm?

2. When we arrived, Einstein’s was (gasp!) out of bagel dogs. We turned to leave. They stopped us by volunteering to make him a fresh bagel dog, which made Dad a very happy customer. I told him this made me a very surprised customer, since I have been in many times with my daughter who is also a bagel dog fanatic, been told they were out, and never had anyone offer to make one fresh. I wasn’t even aware that they could do that! I was a bit miffed, in fact, wondering if it was Dad’s authoritative air that got them to make the offer, or general disrespect for little people (whose mothers may be among their most devoted customers, and who are after all paying the same 5 bucks for their meal as Dad) that caused me never to have heard the offer before, or whether they were just bored on this particular day and would never make the offer again to anyone, or whether the level of Einstein’s service is dependent on the particular human being behind the counter that day. Can you go out of the way for your customers? Make it the standard—don’t let it be dependent on the staff’s mood, the traffic you have that day, or any prejudice about an individual customer.

3. The custom dog turned out badly, overtoasted and dry. Still, did their extra efforts and my Dad’s eager anticipation of the meal cancel out the poor result? Don’t miss the touchdown because of a fumble.

In addition to a poor dog, my Dad ordered a seafood soup which turned out to be Manhattan-style (a devoted New Englander who forgot he was nowhere near New England, he didn’t even think to ask, and really doesn’t like red chowders). He gave it a try since it was paid for, and he described it as “a few lonely bits of seafood tossed into a vegetable soup.” This was a serious disappointment, as seafood soup conjures up all sorts of lovely upscale luncheon images for Dad. The promise was there, but the soup failed him, too. Always overdeliver.

4. “The best part is the pickle,” said Dad, who ate his and then grabbed mine, very happy that I forgot to tell them my usual “no pickles” near my sandwich. (My sandwich? I loved it as usual. I am biased.) “It’s the best pickle I’ve had in a long time, and it was free.” When all else fails, make the extras really special. What small, memorable value can you add to your product or service?

What will my father remember about this meal, the next time he’s in Delaware? Friendly people who went out of their way with a smile? Bad dog, bad chowder? Good pickles?

Will he ask me to take him there again?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson