Perhaps, I don’t like to give up on people and places, because yesterday I visited a brand new restaurant. Even with the experience of the day before fresh in my memory, I decided to visit a place that was new to me. I had noticed the new place several weeks ago and made a mental note to give the place a try. So yesterday was the big day, I decided to push through the disappointment from the day before and see what the new place was all about.
This restaurant has great visibility but it is a little challenging to get to the place. Not impossible, and not really hard, just not as convenient as the place I visited the day before.
Upon arriving I noticed that that the restaurant was lighted well. I will confess that this is a generational observation. I like light. I like to see. Preferences make the world go around, and I happen to like light and lighting. The place was bright. Since I arrived at the time they opened, I was the first person and for a few moments the only person. I was greeted at the door and told I could pick out any place to sit. The lady showed me to a booth and put a menu on the table. She offered me coffee and water. As we conversed further I mentioned that I had eaten at a couple of restaurants in my state with the same name. She smiled and mentioned the towns in which there are eateries with the same name. I was then informed that this place was not affiliated with the other places. She was warm and very informative. The other server as she walked by my table greeted me. The cook came out from the back and waved and said good morning. My coffee cup never got less than one third empty before the server came and gave me more. There was a television with a news channel playing and I thought it a little loud and intrusive, again a generational difference. My thought is if I wanted to watch television I would have stayed home and watched to my hearts connect. I understand that I live in a culture addicted to background noise. As the commentator made a couple of comments the server laughed and then looking at me said, “what do you think about that?” First I had to get over the astonishment that anyone would think to ask someone they don’t know, what their opinion is and then give the impression they really wanted to know!
The server was very informative and told me that the restaurant had been open for about five months. Later when she handed me the check she asked if I wanted a cup of coffee to go? Coffee to go, you mean you are willing to let me take some with me?
My observations from these two restaurants I visited this week:
- People make the difference. Attentiveness is a powerful tool. A good server can overcome nearly all deficiencies. You see I liked the place before I had a cup of coffee or ate a bite of food.
- Friendliness is different from engagement. The server today engaged me on two or three occasions. Nothing dramatic or long, just a few seconds but each encounter left me with a positive feeling. She was more than just friendly, she engaged me in conversations albeit brief.
- Focus is important. Restaurants serve people, not food! Not coffee. People!
- People are continually evaluating. I at a subconscious level was making evaluations at breakfast the last two days. The question(s) I was asking were: Am I welcome here? Do I like this place? Would I invite people I know to come here? Based on my last two days, the place visited today would be my breakfast restaurant of choice.
- The choice is not based on the product alone. Both had coffee, eggs and a full range of breakfast choices. My choice is based on more than the food. Granted if I would have gotten food poisoning no amount of kindness and goodwill from the staff could have overcome food poisoning. Yet the majority of the time we are most directly impacted by interactions with people.
How might we apply these observations to the places where we worship? Do we realize that we could well be the deciding factor in what people will experience at our church this week? Do we have a plan to engage people and not just smile and greet at a surface level? Have we lost our focus? We need to be reminded of why we do what we do. People who decide not to become a part of our church are not necessarily rejecting Jesus. The problem may be with our attitude or actions that become a barrier for people.
Just as we have many restaurants in our community, there are many congregations as well. No one restaurant or church will be able to reach and keep every person.