I’m allergic to gluten.
Whenever I go out to eat, I know I’m taking a risk. But, I’m not a hermit and I don’t like to always eat at home.
My husband and I pick the restaurants that we’re eat at very carefully. We call ahead of time and ask if they have gluten-free options. If the person who answers the phone has no idea what we mean by gluten, it’s a definite no. We also ask if they prepare gluten-free food with separate utensils and pans, because cross contamination can get me just as sick as eating a piece of bread.
As soon as we meet our waitress or waiter, I explain that I’m highly allergic to gluten and ask that the chef be notified with our order. Almost always, the wait staff is extremely accommodating and nice.
A couple weekends ago, my husband and I decided we were in the mood for sushi, so we went to a local restaurant that we’ve eaten at before. We brought our own gluten-free soy sauce and told the waitress about my allergy when placing our order.
My mouth was watering when she brought over the delicious sushi rolls filled with asparagus, roasted peppers, avocado, lettuce, and pineapple and topped with coconut flakes. But, when I swallowed the first piece, I knew something was wrong.
I immediately sliced apart another piece of sushi and saw that the asparagus had been breaded. Crap.
I got really sick. My gluten allergy is no joke. For the next couple days, I felt like I had the flu.
When the chef and manager found out what happened, they were extremely apologetic. They wanted to fix the situation. Unfortunately, once I consume it, there’s really nothing that can be done.
However, they’ve taken many steps to rectify the situation. They recognized our order the next time my husband called in and made our regular-sized sushi rolls extra large. They’ve invited us in for free meals. They’ve become more diligent about making sure things ordered gluten-free ARE in fact gluten-free. And, they recently told my husband that they’re adding more vegetarian and gluten-free items to their menu to serve more people like us.
They listened to their customers.
You’d think that we wouldn’t go back there, but we have. Why? Because, it’s obvious that they care about their customers and they listen. That’s the most important part to me when it comes to loyalty.
This post could have been about how awful that experience was, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to listen to your customers, and how well that restaurant is doing just that.
You want to take every opportunity to listen to your customers, make changes in your business model, and make your products and services more appealing.