Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about how inefficiency can actually have a role in a well-marketed business. I received some great feedback regarding the article and I wanted to return to the subject with a story from a recent trip I took to Colorado with the most amazing team of people in the world.
Mexican Food Gone Wrong: Where Inefficiency Spells Trouble
It was the last week of September and we pulled into Eagle, Colorado. The drive was about 7 hours long and all of us were tired, hungry and ready to move around a bit. We debated about where to go for dinner and after one of the hotel staff members recommended a small Mexican food restaurant right around the corner, we promptly headed out.
I don’t know what your experience is with Mexican food restaurants, but here in Utah, few of them, especially the more authentic ones, are well kept. Typically, they look like little rundown places that are in need of some TLC. Granted, we weren’t in Utah, this restaurant was no exception. It was a complete dive, but we went anyway because it was supposed to have great food.
As soon as we walked in, we probably should have realized that we would have been better of trying out luck somewhere else. There was no air conditioning, the service was poor, and none of us walked away satisfied with the experience. My buddy, Ryan tried like crazy to get us to leave after we had walked in. Instead, we sat there like good little martyrs and sucked it up.
Back when I wrote my original post, Marjorie Claymen made an astute observation. She wrote:
I think somewhere along the line, inefficiency, regardless of the experience, became symbolic of some deep and underlying problem. If it takes a long time to get your food while eating out, even if the environment is very beautiful and relaxing, we assume that there is a problem. If someone tries to reach out and execute good customer service, we get antsy and feel like they must not get many customers. Why else would they want to talk to us so much?
In the case of this Mexican restaurant, Marjorie nailed it. We should have been tipped of immediately. My guess is that there was far more wrong with the place than what we saw. But…
Back Bowling: Where Inefficiencies Make for a Great Experience
The next night, our team strolled into a local bowling alley called Back Bowling. It had also been recommended to us and after doing some research online, we decided to give it a try. At first glance, you might not want to go there. It is located in the basement of an older building. As you first enter, you have to go down two flights of stairs. All the way down, the walls are covered with local flyers and posters from recent and upcoming events. But then you enter the bowling alley.
It was one of the coolest places I have ever hung out. There were actually two separate bowling alleys on opposite ends of the area. Between them was a reception desk, an arcade, a small sports bar. The place was like a full on man cave, complete with large over stuffed leather seats, classic rock playing throughout the place, couches for the bowlers, gorgeous decor, posters and other artwork, and televisions lined the walls of the sports bar so you could catch up on all your favorite sports. It was the kind of place you could go to and hang out for hours on end, whether enjoying a beer with a few friends or even just to watch a little television.
Here’s the hitch. The service was at the counter and in the restaurant was slow. But did it matter? What I would tell you is that it didn’t matter in the least. I doubt that this was done intentionally, but it worked. They had created such a fantastic environment that none of us wanted to leave. Getting our food quickly was secondary. We wanted to be there. We wanted to enjoy our time together and we have found a great place to do it in. Slow service was actually a welcome change (none of us felt like we were being rushed through the place so the next person could have a table).
Our waitress was incredibly nice. She chatted with us at length, make a bunch of jokes and made us feel incredibly welcome. When she did come out with the food, we were awed. It was some of the best food we had eaten as a team over the last two years.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to how silly we had been the first night. It was unanimous – every knew we should have visited the bowling alley the first night instead of the Mexican restaurant. The final test came on night three. We left Colorado around 4 p.m. and had a 7 hour drive home. And everyone wished that we could have stayed another night so we could go hang out one more time at Back Bowling.
It is incredibly important to understand, it is important that we find ways to be efficient and to provide customers with a great experience at the same time. But at the end of the day, focusing on efficiencies may not always be what is best for our business. Being quick is good, taking care of your customers and meeting their emotional needs is even more important, especially if you want to develop long-term loyalties to your business.