What are they, you, we, here for?

I am not invisible and should not be made to feel I am.

I’m working at a Panera Bread this morning. I had a meeting in Ft. Worth last evening, and Rachel has one this morning, so we spent the night here with a friend to save gas and mileage.

I stood at Register Row in Panera Bread for a while before an employee paused to direct me to the register that was open. Seeing no line, I walked right up to the two employees who were deep in some sort of conversation.  I had been visible to them as I walked past them toward the larger collection of registers.

I was still visible to them as I stodd there hoping to order coffee.  Several seconds past, and the one directly in front of the register acknowledged my existence and asked if she could help me.  The other one kept talking to her.  Apparently their conversation about other people (whose names I have forgotten) was more important to him than was this customer who ostensibly wanted to spend some money.

I ordered, paid, got my own coffee, and sat down.  I’m glad I had eaten breakfast at iHop next door. There I had been greeted by a friendly hostess who also turned out to be my server.  She was quick to bring my coffee, take my order, and just interested enough in me to make sure I had what I wanted. (which didn’t include, this time, cheeky conversation with the staff – some staff at some restaurants don’t get this – that customers don’t always come to their establishment to talk to THEM)

Ever since my training days at a very well run McDonald’s, I have been a big fan of customer service done well.  These days I almost always translate such experiences into things the church can and should learn.

Guests and visitors to your congregation are not exactly customers, but they are looking for appropriate levels of our (people of the church) being interested in them.  Most do not want to be surrounded and hounded with questions, as though the congregation were papparazzi. Most do, however, enjoy being welcoming into a congregation and into conversation.

They don’t want to be made to feel invisible any more than you and I do.

One thought on “What are they, you, we, here for?

  1. This is why I love being a “regular” at a restaurant. Not a fast food place, not sure that it would work there. But at a regular diner-type place. A few years ago I was in a band in Atlanta whose rehearsal space was right around the corner from L5P Pizza. On Thursdays I would walk in and, no matter who was working the register, by the time I got to the counter my order was in (I’m a little OCD) and there was $4 in quarters stacked up for me to play the “Monsters Rock” pinball game while I waited. They even knew to wait until I’d played my second game to hand the ticket to the cook.

    Yesterday morning I experienced the opposite of your Panera adventure. On Tuesdays I eat at Richard’s Restaurant and my waitress Tara knows my order. When I come in and sit down, my coffee and water appear as if from nowhere and Tara always asks, “Are you alone today or are you waiting for your friend? Want your regular?” It kinda feels like a hug. Being known.

    Yesterday one-upped that experience; I pulled up in front of Richard’s and was delayed for a moment by a phone call. When I walked in, I walked to the right side of the restaurant where I usually sit. At first all of the booths appeared full, then I realized that one of them was empty except for a cup of coffee and a glass of water.

    “Tara, is this me?”
    “Yup. You alone?”

    My waitress knows my car. Ahhh.

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