My friend, Andy Horner, and I were eating lunch at Chick-fil-A last Friday. My 3-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, was with us.
The minute we walked in the door, we were all handed a sample of their new tortilla soup. A bit spicy, but absolutely excellent. I should note the person serving the soup was a smiling-young woman who seemed both happy to see us and happy to serve us.
We placed our order, and it was ready before I got done paying. I should also note both the cashier and the food server seemed both happy and happy to serve us.
When we got to our table we had a dilemma. Our food was hot and ready to eat, but Gabrielle wanted to go to the playground. So we compromised. After she ate three pieces of chicken, she got to go on the slide. The playground is a major kid’s attraction at Chick-fil-A.
Meanwhile, as we were eating our lunch, not less than three people came by our table to offer us service of one kind or another. When is the last time that happened to you in a fast food restaurant? Never? I thought so.
These weren’t just people who asked us if we needed anything else. They were also smiling at us, chatting just a little bit, and suggesting things they might do to help, such as asking, “Would you like a refill?” or making a comment about how Gabrielle was enjoying her lunch. I should further note each person was both smiling and exceptionally sincere.
I put one of them to the test. I gave him my credit card and asked him for a small bowl of their new soup. “Right away!” he said. And two minutes later the soup arrived.
I could not tell if the people who stopped at our table were managers or janitors. It didn’t matter. They all acted exactly the same way, as if they owned the place and their life depended on our happiness and gratification.
Andy and I began to talk after Gabrielle returned for a second visit to the playground.
“What is it about this place?”
“Why are we so enthralled with it?”
“Is it the service?”
“Is the playground?”
“Is it the friendly people?”
Certainly all of the above are contributing factors to the overall ambience and experience. But we decided it’s the QUALITY OF THE FOOD! We agreed that all of these extra elements would fall short of the mark if the quality of the fast food was inferior.