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Friday, March 25, 2011

Service that Sells

My long running tradition of being thrifty buying books came to an end today when I purchased a package deal of e-books on the minimalist lifestyle that was advertised on several blogs I visit. I could have gotten a huge stack of paperbacks I'd never read at the sale at the local bookstore that is going to be happening today but instead I thought I would expose myself to the world of the self published author who's said goodbye to the cubicle and is willing to forgo capitalist gain so that they can spend more time doing things they love that don't cost money.

Service That Sells was well within the tradition of cheap though, at the car dealership I take my car to for oil changes they have a "leave one take one" bookshelf. The book was on the shelf and I thought I'd give it a whirl while I waited to see that extra services the shop thought they would try to sell me. After the oil change was finished I decided to take one even though I didn't bring any to give. Oh well, the used book economy at the car dealership has just become a victim of the free rider problem and I'm always happy to hand out an economic lesson.

Service That Sells is a quick handbook to running a restaurant. It was an absolute blast to read. Instead of being full of terrible parables or motivational speeches this book was full of practical advice on affecting the bottom line of a restaurant business.

Much of the advice applies to every kind of business, for example the chapter about employee motivation. This was the first business book I've read that discussed that people come into work to make money. The only reason you get treated nicely by anyone at a business is because they want to sell you something. People who don't want to sell you something want to bash your head open with a club and take your stuff so doing business with your fellow man by selling him stuff is actually what we call civilization. The book discussed how a successful business aligns the employees with its goal of selling stuff and if you provide the proper training and incentives your staff will treat your customers well and help you sell whatever it is you're selling.

Pure genius, I can't tell you how many books I've read that tell you if you pump people up with sunshine and "company values" you'll get good results. Pump them up with knowledge and pay that depends on good performance and you'll probably create an environment where people want to sell.

The book also has chapters on cutting costs, and promoting the business. Honestly this book was so good that it made me want to go out and start a restaurant right away. Honestly every time I've been to a restaurant since has been a disappointed because the authors gave such a clear vision of what top notch service could look like that I've felt short changed by they guy who doesn't offer to make a suggestion ever since.

So let me say that this book is probably going to be the best business book I read this year and let me close with a plug for a place that "gets it". Fat Daddy's in Nashua has offered the best service I've ever had in a coffee shop every time I've stopped by. They ask what I'm in the mood for and make helpful suggestions, they give service with a smile and make me feel welcome. I honestly would visit this coffee shop every day if I had the time. I'd just like to note that I don't receive compensation or any kind of coffee discount for recommending the place, it's just somewhere I'd recommend you go to see exactly what "Service That Sells" is all about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Estabrook Grill

My wife and I were sitting around at home today wondering what to do. We got in the car to go out and in the blue Valpak coupon envelope that comes a couple of times a month there was a coupon to Estabrook Grill. It was a $5 off $25 coupon and neither my wife or I had heard of it so it was time for a lunch adventure.

The restaurant was on Palm Street. For those of you not from New England, I'll inform you that any street named after a tree is in the bad part of town. This seems almost universal in the larger cities. I have a feeling that there was a big tree naming fad going on in the post WW II building boom years and now all those old neighborhoods have been abandoned to the poor and unemployed while the wealthier families moved out to the suburbs.

If you would like to hear my fairly universal tip on how to recognize whether or not you're in a bad neighborhood it is to count the number of people around outside doing nothing. Try it, drive through the suburbs and you'll see people gardening or in a lot of neighborhoods you'll see no-one at all. You may see parties or people out for a walk but if you see people standing around doing nothing, you're in the wrong neighborhood.

So thanks to Google maps on my Droid, we found the restaurant easily. It was actually a nice looking place in an old mill building, you can see Joanna in the front of the restaurant here:

[caption id="attachment_512" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Joanna at the restaurant"][/caption]

When we got into the restaurant, we realized that we were the youngest people there. What we found out is that the mill building has been converted into condominiums for elderly people! It was kind of cool to be the youngest person in a place, that hasn't happened to me in a while. The restaurant was seat yourself so we sat by a window. Unfortunately the view was a prime view of one of the tree streets and there was a nasty mound of trash in front of the house across the street. Lots of people were just standing around in the street doing whatever nothing they do.

The special today was of course corned beef and cabbage, I didn't really feel like a dinner so I went for the Cobb salad. This was the first restaurant I've been to where they had poutine on the menu and Joanna wanted to give it a try so she went with the appetizer sampler plate. I've never found the concept to be appealing so I decide on the Cobb salad.

The portions were generous, here are photos of us and our plates:

[caption id="attachment_513" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Joanna with her sampler "][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_514" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="The Big Salad"][/caption]

The food wasn't perfect, the Cobb salad had apples but the apples were very green and bitter. Joanna thought that the wings on her sampler were too hot and the fries in the poutine weren't that fresh. It wasn't a bad meal but it wasn't food I'll be thinking of and wanting to try again in a few weeks. Our bill came to $24.98 but fortunately our server took the coupon anyway. If I had to sum this place up I'd label both the food and the service adequate but not passionate.

[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Courtyard at the Eastabrook and Palms retirement community"][/caption]

After the meal we walked around the courtyard a bit, it was a nice little place and if I make it to an age where I can stop working I wouldn't mind living in a little place like that, but preferably in Las Vegas.