Friday, February 15, 2008


Living on the road, you wind up eating at a lot of chains. The primary reasons are that they are likely to be some in reasonable proximity to your hotel - wherever THAT may be. They’re often open later which is really helpful after a day of flight delays. And they’re highly predictable in that you pretty much know what you’re going to get (generally speaking, the fewer surprises there are on the road the better).

Beyond that, there’s rarely anything to get excited about. One is about as good as the other.

So I was a bit taken aback when I got more – no a lot more - than I expected from a visit this week to the Texas Road House in Richmond, IN. I wasn’t surprised that the food was good, cooked the way I asked for it, and was priced at what I thought was a relative bargain. I’d been there before several times and that’s what I’d come to expect.

What surprised me on this visit however was how every employee that interacted with me sold the experience of eating there.

Yeah, it’s a chain restaurant. But no one I came in contact with tonight apparently had gotten that memo. They were more of the mindset, “I’m proud of this place, I’m having a great time working here, and I really (no, really!) want you to enjoy your time here, too.”

It seemed to me (the occasionally cynical New Yorker) to be genuine. Servers laughed, had fun with customers, and really did sell the experience. And it was a good one.

Interestingly, I’d just that same day come from a radio station where that very same feeling permeates the hallways and the on air product. This staff – top to bottom, on air and off – apparently never got the memo that you could actually ‘get away’ with mailing it in.

They apparently never got the memo that said, “Radio’s not as much fun as it used to be.”

They apparently never got the memo that said, “You’ve got quite a ways to go to get to win this thing, so just do the best you can with what you’ve got and set your sights low.”

And they certainly never got the memo that says, “All stations sound the same anyway, you can’t make a difference, so just fly under the radar and you’ll have the best chance of continuing to collect a paycheck.”

Apparently this restaurant and this radio station got a different memo. They got one that says: “Create an atmosphere where people have fun, feel valued, and feel like they are part of something special and unique. Do these things and they’ll want to come back again and again.”

Now THAT’S a good memo – and one that I hope lots of people will get.

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