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Reflections on Gratitude:

The power of “thank you” and the potential of “you’re welcome”

If you grew up with parents, then you probably grew up learning to say “please,” and “thank you” on a fairly regular basis. As children we are taught to be thankful, yet as we grow older it becomes more and more difficult to say those sweet words with true conviction and sincerity.

We in the restaurant industry have much to be grateful for. We get to work in a fun, creative environment where we are constantly meeting new people and learning new skills. Your guests have many choices when it comes to picking a restaurant. And yet, they choose you.  Aside from the verbal “thank you,” here are three ways to tell your guests that you value their business.

  1. Learn their names: In his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” People love to hear their names, and it means a lot to your guests that we remember them.
  2. Give-aways: No matter who you are, the arrival of the check is often the worst part of the meal. One of my favorite practices to counterbalance the pain of footing the bill is the “give-away.” Have your pastry chef come up with something sweet and simple to send out to guests as a gift at the end of the meal: truffles, tiny cookies, madeleines, etc. This tells your guests that you appreciate them and are willing to go the extra mile to let them know how important they are to your business.
  3. Thank you notes: If you have a modern POS system, then you probably have a simple way to measure the number of times a particular guest frequents your establishment. Set your system to flag guests after visits 5, 10, 20, etc. and send them a hand-written thank-you note. This may seem like a painfully tedious practice, but it certainly makes an impression.

While you’re at it, don’t forget about the people who make your business run so well on a day-to-day basis. Here are three ways to thank your staff:

  1. Remember their names: Just like your guests, your staff loves to hear the sound of their names. Also, that line cook really doesn’t like being called “skinny white dude.” His name is Steve.
  2. Family meal: Taking the time to gather before service not only unites the team and allows you to get everyone on the same page, it also lets your staff know that you care about them. Family meal does not have to be elaborate, and it is a great way to reduce food waste while inspiring a sense of well being.
  3. Celebrate: Take an interest in your staff and celebrate with them. Birthdays, engagements, promotions, etc. provide ample reason for recognition. Bringing a cake or homemade cookies for someone is a wonderful way to say thank you.

The power of “you’re welcome”

I grew up constantly thanking people for various things. (My mama taught me well).  I became quite good at saying, “thank you.” I wasn’t very good at accepting the very same kind of gratitude that I was doling out by the bushel-full. When thanked, I generally responded with, “No worries,” or “It’s no big deal.” There is nothing intrinsically wrong with either reply. However, when we casually brush off words of gratitude, we simultaneously downplay our actions and the desire of the person thanking us. When someone thanks you for an action, a gift, a word, etc., it matters to them. Whatever you were able to give to them, however big or small, inspired feelings of gratitude, compelling them to thank you.

It can be a little uncomfortable to genuinely accept a heart-felt thank you. While thanking someone requires you to acknowledge that you need something, “you’re welcome” requires you to acknowledge your ability to provide that thing. For the humble-hearted, this can be extraordinarily awkward. The first time I said, “you’re welcome” to someone and truly meant it, my world turned right side up. I was able to see myself, and the people I was serving, in a whole new light. This simple phrase holds such complex connotations. Rather than lessening the value of a thank you by brushing it off, I challenge you to sincerely accept it. I promise you’ll love the new perspective.