Today I was inquiring around the office as to how I could get paid for my genius. (Suspension of disbelief might play a larger role than is normally required for my blog posts.) I asked a few people and was directed to Tom, The Co-op’s information systems coordinator, who told me, “Genius is a double-edged sword, just look at Tesla.” Mind blowing, disheartening, and unfortunately, true.
I refer you back to my post about the movie Big Night. Uno is a chef who is a genius. Unfortunately, his brother is not the best educator/promoter. All of Uno’s efforts fall short not because he is not a genius, but because there are not enough people around to recognize it, and one of the only people who does is his competitor who in the end uses his genius as his undoing in a final and heart-achingly delicious last supper.
Here comes the parallel. Bellingham. There is a great local food scene which is struggling to grow here. It is backed by local chefs and Sustainable Connections, not to mention all of the local food growers and avid food eaters in town. Unfortunately, as we witness the closure of Dashi Noodle Bar, it seems that there might not be enough support in Bellingham to create a thriving local food scene. A recent article in The Herald on this topic called for more education and support for local restaurants, but over half of the comments below the article noted bad service as one reason they would not return to a restaurant.
Let’s now go back to Big Night. The competitor’s restaurant in the movie is wildly popular with the tourists, not because of the great food, (in fact to the contrary, even the owner says it is sub-par), but because of the atmosphere, the service, the front of the house charm. In Uno’s restaurant, when a customer asks for a side of pasta, he throws a tantrum in the kitchen.
When I am treated as if I am a burden, I do everything I can to unburden the person I seem to be affecting. When I am treated like I am not wanted, I make myself scarce. It is physics. Energy follows energy. Treat someone like they are unwanted, and they will become convinced that they are.
Back to my genius. I am an idea person. Highly creative. Incredibly inspired. But if I never act on my ideas, from beginning to END, none of that matters. Every great idea I will ever have will stay in my head and the world at large will sadly be deprived of my unique gifts.
It is the same with any restaurant, the kitchen being the brain and the front of the house being the hands and mouth. The brain can be brilliant. The brain can be gifted. The brain can be way ahead of the curve. But if it lives in a body which suffers from paralysis (except for the case of Stephen Hawking) all of that creativity and inspiration will die with the body.
The reality of Genius is that it must be accessible. It must be approachable. It must be in some way, human. That is what the service end of an operation should do. Let your customers know that they are not only worthy of the food you are about to serve them, but that you are glad that they are the ones eating it. Service should be about including the customer in a conversation that contains valuable information. Nothing less.
When you treat your service staff as if they are a vital part of an unbelievably special operation, they will treat your customers that way. When you treat your service staff like they are expendable, that is how they will treat your customer. This, too, is physics.
The people in Bellingham are waiting to be treated as guests, not intruders. Maybe we should all do something about this.