I interviewed a coffee shop owner this afternoon for a food article I'm writing for our paper's Wednesday food pullout section. He was an older guy who had been fed up working in the technical industry. Sure, he had been making a lot of money but he found that there was no real communication with others in his job. He decided to start a “sand
wich shop that sold coffee”
which quickly became a “coffee shop that sold sandwiches.”
When pressed about the vision for his shop (which is doing well by the way – nice to see in this economic climate) he made a point of mentioning two TV shows: Happy Days and Cheers, childhood shows that framed how he wanted his business to be.
“I wanted to have a place where members of the community could go and where people would know their names” he told me,
passion from this vision simply dripping onto the table. “Remember Happy Days when the kids went to the hamburger shop and just hung out? There's nothing like that anymore.”
I wonder how many of us out there, who grew up on shows like that, hold onto that – admittedly - romanticized vision?
It isn't practical to think that people are not going to use their cellphones at dinner or even when they are ordering a coffee, after all we haven't checked World News for at least 20 minutes, something might be happening, right? You're just kidding yourself if you think you can have a coffee shop without WIFI these days. But is it really nuts to think that in some way, you
might be able to bring back a bit of the “down-home-family-dinner-time-talk” that we all grew up with?
I know, I know, the world is faster, brighter, slicker than it was when we were kids. News is reported instantaneously, events are scheduled with no time to reflect. I think though, that the challenge for us as business owners is to at least try and emulate the good old days. Although that type of approach may not interest the new breed of techno-intellect, there are a lot of people out there, older business owners who grew up watching those old shows and who secretly yearn for a world where people hang out talking about their days.
So how can we do this in a fast paced world?
Networking – we've talked about it time and time again. Networking is not just pushing out, it's also about connecting.
Verbal communication – yeah I know, email is easier and a funny youtube video is worth a thousand words (and clicks) but a human being reaching out to another? Priceless.
Asking for feedback – forget filling out my survey form, tell me, were you happy with the service? Did it solve your problem?
Giving back to the community – if your business doesn't give back, what's the sense?
It might be naive to think that modern businesses are above this sort of touchy-feely behavior but as I sat across from this guy, who was incredibly happy with the fact that people showed up to his restaurant to play board games on Thursday nights, I
couldn't help but think, maybe there really is a place in our world for a business where “everyone knows your name.”
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).
Photo credit: Fat Daddy's