By Michael Gunther

I recently visited Southern California for my niece Julie’s wedding, and my partner Steve and I built in a few extra days as a mini vacation. The day before the wedding we spent the morning in Laguna Beach—a great beach town that was once an artist mecca.

As we searched for a place to have breakfast along the strip, the fourth restaurant we discovered, called Nick’s, captured our attention. From the minute we approached it we knew it was going to be different. Compared to the first three options we’d scouted, Nick’s was clean, had a great buzz about it, and had a cool contemporary flair. There was also a wait to be seated (which on a three day weekend in a tourist town you would expect) but the other restaurants weren’t even a third full—and they all had ocean front views of the Pacific.

Steve and I captured two recently emptied seats at the bar located in the center of this cozy restaurant, giving us a birds-eye of view of the employees, kitchen, and management staff. Watching this team in action was truly inspiring (okay, I’m aware that I’m a business consultant geek when I get excited about experiencing and watching well run organizations, and then I write about it).

Each employee had their functions and roles down. The hostesses used iPads to keep track of the availability of tables. The wait staff supported each other by constantly refilling the water carafes, ensuring glassware was always stocked, and helping with food delivery and clearing tables. The bartenders worked furiously to not only tend to the patrons ordering breakfast at the bar, but ensure the wait staff had all their creative drink orders completed efficiently. The managers constantly monitored how their team was performing and stepped in to lend a hand when necessary. It was like watching a well-oiled machine—we were amazed by how synchronized it all seemed to be.

They definitely had paid attention to all the details:

  • It was evident there were clear roles and responsibilities for team members, and the staff had been trained to support one another throughout the day to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • The walls in the hallways and bathrooms had no chips or scratches—in fact, I thought they were a brand new restaurant based on the condition of the place, but I was told they’ve been open for about four years. They had also clearly paid attention to the ‘curb appeal’ of their space—those details have a huge impact from the very first impression.
  • The managers were involved with every employee and attentive—at one point as a bartender poured a drink with the bottle spout dripping, a manager noticed and immediately said he would get the bartender a new spout. As simple as this sounds, it appeared to us that they knew these miniscule details mattered.
  • Finally, the menu, presentation, and taste of the dishes matched the rest of the atmosphere. Not only was it fun to watch the food as it came out of the kitchen, but it was also truly flavorful.

Now, I’m not a restaurant critic, but we have all experienced restaurants that had everything going for it—location, food, etc. but their people, systems, and atmosphere didn’t all come together. In the long run, these places have a hard time making a go of it compared to restaurants like Nick’s, which truly make everything come together. It’s this kind of thinking and attention to detail that makes your experience most enjoyable.

Bottom Line

In order to provide exceptional service and value don’t just envision it, but focus on both the big and small details. I do believe it’s the small details that transform one organization from being just good to being exceptionally great.

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