First Impressions: Why They Matter
First impressions matter… Every Time!
When I was in high school the cool place to go out for dinner once someone got their drivers license in grade 11 or 12 was a place called Earls on Marine Drive in North Vancouver. Some of the cool kids got jobs there (I was and still am not cool) and it was always the popular place to be. I’m closing in on 25 years of going there. Recently, they closed down the location of my youth and moved to West Vancouver to one of the better designed and higher end looking restaurants in town. The old school charm is gone, the whole staff is new, it’s only a 3 minute drive away but things have changed quite a bit. I’ll be honest, my first few interactions at this restaurant have been disenchanting. The bad service and bad feel just didn’t do it for me so I’ve stayed away. But, this morning when I asked Preet where she wanted to take my dad for lunch she said Earls. I was holding out hope but after church I asked my mom the same thing and for the first time in years she said the exact same thing… Earls. You are probably thinking its Father’s Day why are they the ones deciding? Well, my dad said lets go home and eat so his vote was thrown out.
We make the trek out to West Van and I said here is the deal, I think the line up is going to be crazy, if it’s too long let’s just go downtown, it will be faster. We parked, and Preet says they told her 30 minutes. I walked in, noticed a bunch of empty tables everywhere, probably at least a dozen tables sitting empty. The lady was also very unappealing to speak to and not very nice. She had a gigantic line up and really had no idea how to control the place. The feel was off from the beginning, we sat and waited, we stood and waited, we moved around and waited, we pretty much just waited for a solid hour.
The restaurant for some reason chooses to put as their face of the store someone who could not on this day control the people trying to get in to the half empty restaurant or get the staff she needed to help get people seated.
Those of you who know me, know that patience on something like this is not exactly my strong suit. For example, if you go to a fine dining establishment like Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills they have the owners wife as the person running the front. She is arguably the sharpest person who works in the restaurant. You give her your name, you wait outside, 30 minutes later, she doesn’t text or call you she knows who you are somehow and comes and sits you at the table. The first impression is breathtaking. It really shows how these people have it figured out. Before you have even tried the food you are impressed. We have a similar thing at Giardino in Vancouver as well. Sharp people running the front. The answer is not “no we don’t have room”, it’s “let me see if we can make room.” It matters to them that you have come to the restaurant, it matters that you want to try out the food, and it matters if you come back because you enjoyed it so much the last time. They take it seriously.
Earls on the other hand really takes everyone for granted. This restaurant may be one of the highest grossing restaurants in Vancouver because of its location but let me tell you, if they did $100,000 in sales today, they could have easily done another $50,000 if they had the right people running the show. They choose to pay someone between 15-18 dollars an hour to run the door for a place doing $100,000 in sales on that day. How does this math makes sense? It’s not like the meals are cheap. Why not pay an extra 5-10 or even 20 dollars more and have someone really sharp up front? Why not give off an impression of excellence when greeting people? Why not leave people impressed with the quality? The way this experience started ruined the entire thing for me and my family. I’m assuming it did the same for the other people. I took some pictures of the people waiting outside and the tables empty inside just for fun.
The funny thing is once we actually sat down the gentleman who sat us was very kind and graceful, our server was great, the kitchen was fast and were hustling hard, we could see it from our seat. In what should have been a fantastic lunch on Father’s Day turned into a 2 hour event that really wore me out. I had to go home and take a nap.
Other than to just vent I have a point.
Your first impression you give to people is important, not just on a personal level but in business. It can’t just be the impression from 20 years ago, it needs to be every time. Success is not an entitlement, you have to earn it every day. Consistency separates. That’s in all facets of life, food and basketball.
If you can deliver on your promise to customers that you will make them important it sticks. Il Pastaio and Giardino back it up every time. But if you don’t, like Earls has done the last few times I’ve been there, if you take the customer for granted, any facet of the experience could turn someone off. This can completely ruin the moment that probably close to 50 other people working there were doing everything they could to create. I met what I’m sure were a few different managers of some sort there today, they were great, they were nice, but I didn’t bring any of this up because honestly it’s the way it’s always been. They put the least qualified person at the front, pay them nothing and let them ruin the experience for everyone. It’s usually been ok, but today, on Father’s Day, it didn’t live up to the quality of the memories I’ve had ingrained in my mind for the last 20 plus years. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and sometimes we all just need to move on to the next one. Maybe today was that day.