A Dinner Out that went Epic

It was our 29th anniversary dinner. We’d driven past this restaurant (Tabor Road Tavern in Morris Plains, NJ) many times, and finally decided to try it out.

When we walked in, we thought the place looked pretty cool – nice design, pleasing atmosphere, unobtrusive music. By the time we walked out, we were raving fans. How did that happen?

Background: both Sandy and I have worked in restaurants in the distant past. We try not to be too picky, but once you’ve waited on tables, you know what good (or bad) service is all about. It takes a lot for me to become a raving fan of any restaurant.

The waiter introduced himself, and then, to level the playing field, he asked to know our names – and also inquired if this was our first time at Tabor Road Tavern, and if there was a special occasion. He was friendly, knowledgeable about the menu offerings, and efficient, as well as glad that we had come to celebrate our anniversary.

During the course of our dinner (and the food was exceptional, by the way), we were attended to by the busboy, the back-waiter, the waiter, the hostess, and two managers – each of them bringing what was ordered or checking in to see how things were. It turned out that the hostess was a gal we knew from church, so she had a bit more history with us.

We had a wonderful meal, and ordered a dessert to share, but before it came out, this plate was brought to our table, with various treats, a candle and the words “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate. And a handwritten, personalized card, wishing us well on our anniversary. I was dumbfounded. We weren’t regular patrons – in fact, we had walked in without a reservation.

The food was great. The wine list was top-notch. The service was exceptional. But here was the bottom line – we were made to feel very special. And that sort of restaurant experience does not happen by accident.

Will we be regular patrons now? Of course – we’ve had many meals out in our years of marriage, but I can count on one hand the ones that rank as memorably “epic.” The Tavern is not inexpensive, but for the level of service that was given, I happily paid the bill. And now happily memorialize the event with a blog post.

Other service organizations, take note – run-of-the-mill customer service gets you forgotten. Epic efforts just may get you immortalized.


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

7 Responses to A Dinner Out that went Epic

  1. Brett Duncan says:

    Funny how things always taste better when you’re made to feel special. This is a great example of what it’s all about.

    Happy Anniversary, by the way.


  2. First and foremost: happy anniversary and blessings for many more years together. Next? I was beyond delighted to read this post. Great that you received such glorious service and wonderful to learn that it still exists.

  3. Joe Ruiz says:

    Happy Anniversary. Pretty impressive attention to detail by just about any standard. And this level of service is driving an unbelievable and unsolicited Word of Mouth campaign. The beauty is it isn’t a program it just seems to be the way they do business. They are having one very cool conversation with their customers.

    I’d love to hear more about how they do it from your friend. How do they instill this kind of service and value in their colleagues? How do they reinforce it?

    Great post. Thanks for sharing and may you have many more years together.

  4. Anne says:

    May I have a few moments for a rant?

    One thing that is unfortunate is the other side of this equation: people not appreciating when you go above and beyond.

    My husband is a building contractor. I doubt that there is any industry that has been affected as much by the recession as ours. And to those who say that we need to stop talking about “this recession” or blaming it for our financial troubles – you are obviously not in the building industry.

    Building contractors face a lot of challenges:

    1) The constant barrage of media warning about the “evil contractor” who just wants to take your money and leave your house a mess. As in any industry there are a few bad apples. The fact that builders are generally working on something that has such emotional investment i.e. your home, makes them a target for unfair publicity. Most builders are very hard-working people who put in 60-80 work weeks to please their custormers and feed their families.

    2) Any time the economy tanks, builders are hit hard. Our family has lived in a constant cycle of pulling ourselves out of a pit during the “good times” only to get hit by the next cycle of financial hard times. In other words, while it’s obvious and predictable what the housing crash would do to the building industry, the tech crash was equally difficult – people watching their I.R.A.’s dry up are not inclined to do the bathroom remodel they planned. Even the terrorist attack of 9/11 had a devastating effect on our business…people were in a state of “what will happen next…” for months and again, people just would not sign on the dotted line. My husband had four months where he was meeting with potential customers constantly, but not even ONE person signed up for a job. Four months of virtually no new work? You try that and see how it affects your family’s finances.

    Back to my point: my husband goes out of his way to make sure his customers are happy, and has a lot of repeat business as a result. But even with that, you still need new customers. I don’t think he’s gotten even one-tenth of the jobs he has priced out in the last year. And for the people he does work for (mostly little stuff, anything to keep some cash flow) – everyone wants something for nothing. My husband goes above and beyond…and people still want more…for nothing.

    So…if you have been planning on getting some work done on your home or business, and you have the money – for goodness sake’s hire a contractor and get it done. Builders are desperate for work. I assure you if you live in No. Florida and give me a shout, my husband will gladly do your job, above and beyond what you would expect!

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  6. Karen Swim says:

    Steve, what a wonderful experience! It’s funny but service is free and truly levels the playing field no matter how big or small your business. A restaurant with good food and low prices can stand out on service as much as a 5-star. Thanks for the reminder to go the extra mile and make the people who choose me feel they are special – because they truly are!

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