the house SPECIAL

When I entered the Nashville music scene in 1994, it wasn’t long before I was rubbing elbows with some of the biggest names in country music. Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson…I was rubbing elbows with all of them. Truth be told, it was usually when I was reaching to refill their water glass, but every now and then our elbows would touch.

I worked at a restaurant called the Green Hills Grille. It was a delightful little bistro nestled in the heart of the Green Hills area of Nashville and staffed mostly by aspiring songwriters, singers, and musicians. The joke was “if you wanted a job at a restaurant in Nashville, you had to submit a three song demo”.  The Green Hills Grille almost always had a line out the door with people eagerly awaiting the spinach and artichoke dip, chicken salad melt, or the famous white bean soup with corn cakes. I was always surprised that the restaurant did absolutely no advertising. The food at the restaurant was excellent but the secret to their success did not lie in the taste of the food, but rather with a little old woman named Mrs. Stevens.

Mrs. Stevens would come in everyday at four O’clock and would always sit at the same table, in the same chair and order the exact same thing; a hot fudge brownie, vanilla ice cream, and black coffee. We all got to know Mrs. Stevens and when we had a chance, we would stop by her table to say hello. One afternoon I had her table in my section, and when I saw her walk into the restaurant I put in her order and had a cup of coffee waiting when she sat down. As she was eating her brownie, I said, “Mrs. Stevens, that must be a pretty good brownie to keep you coming back day after day”.  She put down her fork and looked up at me and said, “Patrick, this is a great brownie, but I don’t come here for the food. I’m here because of you…and Gail, and Brigid and Jed and Doug and Steve”…. To my surprise, Mrs. Stevens began to name every single server in the restaurant and as she looked up at me, her eyes began to mist over and she said, “y’all make me feel so special

I can remember my first day of work at the Green Hills Grille.  We were in a back room taking a menu test, and Brian, the general manager, walked in and spoke three words then left. He didn’t say don’t be late, or don’t drop dishes…. He said REMEMBER THEIR NAMES!  The secret to the Green Hills Grille’s success was not in the food. (Isn’t good food an expectation?), it was that we made the customers feel good being there.

Do your customers feel good about you? How are you exceeding your customer’s expectations? Great customer service is not a selling point, it is expected. Product reliability….expected!!!, competitive price point…expected !!!!!!

Here are three ways to exceed expectations and turn customers into fans:

1. REMEMBER THEIR NAME. It makes them feel special and makes you look competent. Remember details of conversations you have and recall them in follow up correspondence.

2  2. REMEMBER THEIR BIRTHDAY .  A famous Hollywood producer spent $60,000 a year on flowers. He said, “they don’t always remember who sent flowers, but they always remember who didn’t.”

3.    REMEMBER YOUR MANNERS.  I was conducting interviews of my best clients asking them why they continued to do business with me. One said, “My secretary loves you. You always call her maam”. She was an older southern lady who appreciated the “old school”.

Patrick Henry is a songwriter, author, speaker, who shows clients how to create distinction in the market place and blow away the competition with the four keys to becoming a “ROCKSTAR IN A ROOM FULL OF KARAOKE SINGERS”. Patrick’s entertaining programs show audiences what happens when Keynotes, Comedy, and Concerts Collide. For more information go to


  1. Flip Chick on January 5, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    A nice story. There is a restaurant/bar that I go to a lot (not every single day, but there will be periods of time where I’ll stop in every day for a week or two) and although the food is very good there, I go because the people there know me. I equate it to feeling like Norm on the TV show “Cheers”. No, people don’t yell my name when I walk in, but pretty much every server and bartender knows me by name and that makes me feel very special.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. brigidday on January 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

    I love this. The Grille created a lot of lasting friendships. 😉

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