A Happy Story of Stellar Service

I recently helped to organize a trip to Miami, to celebrate a dear friend who’s getting married in May. The long weekend went well, a good time was had by all, etc etc. Yet I was particularly thrilled and gratified by the experience we had at Michelle Bernstein’s restaurant, Michy’s.

For some time now, service has been talked of as an important factor to consider within innovation. It’s one of Doblin’s “ten types” of innovation, and “service design” has emerged as an important discipline in its own right. Practitioners such as Hillary Cottam in the U.K. demonstrate what’s possible when you apply smart design principles to systemic matters of great weight, such as the justice system or healthcare.

This was rather more straightforward: a restaurant doing things right. Here’s what stood out for me during this lovely evening:

The menus
I’d had fairly involved discussions with someone at the restaurant before our group even showed up, and during one of these conversations I mentioned that we were celebrating my friend. “How lovely. Would you like us to customize the menus?” was the instant response. I hadn’t even thought of this, but it was a lovely touch that lent a carefully designed feel to the evening.

The food
Chef Anthony Bourdain once described vegetarians as “persistent irritants,” and declared that he’s delighted to charge a fortune to serve them a couple of pieces of grilled eggplant. Don’t think they, er, we don’t notice. We may not eat fish or meat, but we’re not stupid. Here, in contrast, there was neither huffing nor puffing about the one vegetarian in the group demanding special treatment. My friends actually wanted to try my food too. I can’t tell you what a rare occurrence that is.

The thoughtfulness
Giving a bride-to-be an unsolicited dessert with the word “congratulations” written on the plate makes her very happy. It also makes the organizers very happy that they went to that venue.

The service
None of us were driving so we relied on taxis to transport us back to our hotel after the meal. As we loitered outside the restaurant waiting for a car to arrive, the hostess came to check on us. “I’ll come and get you if one doesn’t arrive in five minutes,” I said to her. “No. I’ll come back and check on you in five minutes,” she replied. She did, too.

It strikes me as a bit sad that good service should still be a moment of wonder rather than an expected part of any experience. But as I’d bet everyone could attest, that’s not the way of the world. So hell, I’ll take it.