By Gino Blefari
My travels this week took me to Charleston, SC, to attend the Real Living Connection conference with the outstanding Real Living Real Estate brokers. After I landed in Charleston, I asked the concierge at my hotel for a few good dinner recommendations. She kindly offered her favorite local spots, among them a steakhouse called Halls Chophouse. Now, if any of you know me well, you know I like my steak; the decision was simple.
So, off I went to find this restaurant, walking along the historic streets of Charleston, lined by little shops and restaurants steeped in good old Southern charm. As I made my way to Halls, I noticed most restaurants were empty but it didn’t catch me off guard because it was, after all, a Tuesday night. I didn’t expect much of a crowd, or even a wait, as I turned the corner onto King Street and spotted Halls up ahead. However, when I walked in, I was surprised to see it was completely packed.
“What’s going on here?”
I didn’t get a chance to answer my own question because I was immediately greeted by a smiling hostess.
“No reservation? No problem.”
I found myself sitting with a perfect view of the front door, where the hostess and two of Halls’ owners, Billy and Tommy Hall, stood to greet anyone who walked in or left the restaurant.
What followed next was a meal I’ll never forget. And do you know why? It’s not because of the quality of the steak or the price of my dinner—the latter was completely fair and the former tasty—it was actually because of the entire experience provided by Halls, an establishment that clearly understands the importance of quality service and how it can translate into business success. I watched for more than an hour as Billy and Tommy met customers who came through the door, warmly addressing each one not as a patron but as a member of the Halls Chophouse family. Isn’t that how all clients and customers should be treated by managers?
Back at the hotel, I couldn’t stop thinking about Halls. A quick Google search told me that the owners, Billy, Tommy, Jeanne and Bill, Sr. have decades of hotel management experience, and I finally understood why their restaurant was run like a five-star hotel.
The next day, I knew I had to return to Halls, if only to compliment the owners on what an impression their staff made. Luckily, when I arrived around noon, they were all there, and even invited me to speak at the staff meeting later that day. I was excited to learn that these regular discussions took place every afternoon, and ensured that Halls’ standard of quality service was always upheld. At exactly 4:30 p.m. each day, the entire staff gathered for an overview of that night’s food and wine offerings from the chef and sommelier and then would recite their credo, reminding them about the importance of stellar customer service.
So, here’s the message: Leaders help their team create a full-service experience from the minute a customer walks in the door. These great leaders understand that it’s essential to connect with customers in a way that makes them feel like they’re part of an extended family. A great leader can transform any room—or restaurant—from a place full of strangers into a place full of friends.