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Dining makes an impression, so make sure to give the right one

Dining makes an impression, so make sure to give the right one

My wife and I recently moved from New York City to the suburbs of Long Island, where both of us spent our formative years. While I was sad to leave the food capital of the world, the experience of actually moving turned us into possibly the industry’s best customers for the month of September.

With the weeks of packing, plus a two-week interval living at our respective parents’ houses as we waited to close on our new house, we practically lived in restaurants during the late summer and early fall. Patronizing everything from quick service to fine dining, fast casual to coffeehouses, street carts to pizza parlors, chains and independents, we probably cooked our own meals only four or five times over a month.

Two experiences highlighted this industry tour. On a Saturday night, after finally lugging the last of our stuff out of our Manhattan apartment, we hit a traditional Long Island diner for dinner, with a small tableside jukebox playing Billy Joel and a lively waitress cracking jokes and balancing multiple plates of food on her arms. The food was hot and served in a timely manner. I got one of the dinner specials, with soup, salad, dessert and coffee for just under $20. We left full and satisfied, with both the service and the food.

Contrasting that was the meal we had on the first night we spent in our new home. With no pots, pans, plates or utensils, we hit a chicken chain drive-thru for a family meal of chicken, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and biscuits.

Despite waiting for nearly 20 minutes, I was excited to tear into the extra-crispy bird parts. I grabbed the bucket, the sides and rooted around the bottom of the bag, searching for a spoon, a fork, even a spork. But I came up empty. They had forgotten the utensils.

We were giddy over finally getting into the house, so a short burst of frustration gave way to inventive resourcefulness. Having just devoured a drumstick, I used the bone to scoop mashed potatoes into my mouth. My wife found a canister of toothpicks in one of the few boxes lying around and speared pieces of macaroni like fine hors d’oeurves at a cocktail party. And we dipped the biscuits in gravy and potatoes, something I would have done even if I had sterling silver at my disposal, because, well, it’s awesome.

Those two experiences stick out, mainly because they represent an end and a beginning, but also because one was positive and one was negative. In this hotly contested foodservice marketplace, it makes sense that both kinds of experience will stick in your customers’ heads. So make sure you leave the right impression.— [email protected]

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