The Last Great Restaurant

Sam Glenn the attitude guy headshotA few years ago when I was a resident of Naperville IL, there was a small restaurant a few blocks away from my house that I got to know very well. It became my hot spot to go have coffee, think, write, and go out to eat with family. I think they had been in business for over 20 plus years. It wasn’t the most beautiful on the inside, but the food and service are what made it work.

I submitted a proposal to speak at a national conference on food and hospitality, however they didn’t think my speech title was a good fit for people in their industry – Hospitality Starts with Attitude. I was surprised they didn’t see the real value in attitude. Because isn’t it with our attitude that we do our work, service customers, build business, solve problems, make new ideas work, do more with less, etc? It all starts with attitude. 

I remember walking into that restaurant in Naperville and the owners would nod to me and say, “Mr. Glenn, sit where you like.” People would look at me like I was famous. It was really cool. Sometimes when I pulled up, the wait staff would have my beverage of choice waiting for me at a table.

Let me point out, they made it a point to get to know me.

When I took my wife, who I was dating at the time, there for the first time thought I owned the place based on the way they treated me. It was awesome. After my mom would have treatments at the hospital, we would pop in and share a sticky bun and catch up on life.

But, then one day it all changed. The owners were ready to retire and so they sold the restaurant. The new owners painted the walls, got new tables, chairs, menus, everything. It looked like a brand new place inside. It was nice. Once all the changes were made I decided to go up there for breakfast and check everything out and see how the new owners were doing. It was all new people working there and it wasn’t very busy either. I wasn’t greeted with a smile and when I asked about sitting next to the window, was refused because the section was closed off. I sat at a booth and my coffee cup never saw a refill. In fact the new owner was sitting at a table behind me talking to an advertising expert on how to get more people in the door. The prices he was quoting her for flyers, adds in the paper, radio spots was outrageous. And still my coffee cup remained empty, I had become invisible. I wanted to turn around and let the new owner on a tip that would save her a fortune – create a story and an experience that people will share with others and will want to return too. I came back over and over because of attitude. But because of the new owners attitude and lack of service I never returned to that restaurant again. If you want to be successful in the restaurant business and the world of hospitality, then remember it all starts with attitude.

My wife and I have a ritual and that is every weekend we go out for breakfast. We change it up. We live in Carmel IN now, and we mix it up a little. There is one restaurant that has amazing food, but the worst service you could imagine. We tend to eat at Cracker Barrel quite a bit. The food is actually so so, but we like the ambiance and atmosphere. And we haven’t had bad service yet. The managers there do a good job. Even though they try to push candy on you when you pay for the bill, we still like going there the most.

Over the past few years, I have had the chance to speak at Purdue University and Iowa University dining services. Great folks and some of the best groups I have ever spoken for. The idea is to let them know that what they do is important and how you serve others is the key to success.

Helpful tips for the hospitality and food industry:

Be aware of your attitude. Is it helping create a positive story or not?

What builds the best business is word of mouth, do such a good job they tell others and want to come back.

Give your best effort. If you see a need, step in and help out. If you have a great idea, share it.

At the end of the day, it really does boil down to one word – Attitude. Leaders who lead with a positive attitude create an example that others can duplicate and to be successful, that is what you want. When you don’t care or portray a mediocre attitude, expect others to mirror that.

As I finish writing this blog, I am sitting in the restaurant of my hotel and not once did I see the bottom of my coffee cup. I love to tip and talk about great experiences, and recognize good work.  So I am going to leave a nice tip for my waitress and thank her for her great service. 

Sam Glenn is an award winning keynote speaker and is often the highest rated speaker at every conference he speaks at.  If you are looking for an uplifting speaker that your audience will absolutely love and gain value from, then contact Sam Glenn’s office about booking him.  –