Punked!

I’ll often tell my audience that I want them to think about the last time they went out to a special-occasion dinner, whether it’s with a great group of friends, family members, or a significant other. I tell them to imagine that it was an amazing experience. The food was incredible, the drinks were delicious, the service was fantastic. I then ask “The next day, how many people do you tell?” The response is typically, “We tell everyone.”

Then I thank them and tell them to think about the last time they went out to a special-occasion dinner, whether it’s with a great group of friends, family members, or a significant other. At that point, I ask them to imagine how brutal the experience was. The food was disgusting, the drinks were toxic and the service was horrible and nonexistent. Halfway through their dinner, they went to the bathroom and when they came back to the table, they exclaimed how disgusting the bathrooms were and if the bathrooms looked that horrible, what did the kitchen look like! I tell my audience that it was so bad, it was almost like it was orchestrated to be that bad, as if Ashton Kutcher was going to show up at the table and scream “Punked!” As the audience settles in with that mental picture, I ask, “The next day, how many people did you tell?” The replies are loud and animated as almost everyone in the audience screams “EVERYONE!!”

I am convinced that, in hospitality, people might talk about their good experiences but everyone will talk about their bad experiences. I train my teams to err on the side of caution and make sure no guest leaves unhappy. I’ve learned that the guest is not always right, and quite often, they are flat wrong. But none of that matters if they leave unhappy because they will share that news.

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