Some thoughts about service and quality

Or how I select my lunch and coffee places.


NORTH Design Branding Portland
Click to enlarge
NORTH is based, coincidentally, northwest of everywhere in Portland until you cross underneath Highway 30 at its confluence with the 405 and the Fremont Bridge; at which point you'll find yourself southwest of the rest of northwest Portland. We lie west of the North Pearl and east of the West hills. We are north of Slabtown and south of where 19th Ave terminates at the Amtrak lines, Front Ave and the Willamette River.

Unlike the Pearl or Slabtown our particular location apparently has no name. Which is fine. [If you know of a name for this area please let me know.]

Between NW Raleigh to the north, NW Hoyt to the south and NW 23rd and NW 10th bounding the west and east, I have roughly 130 blocks to perambulate and scan. Twice a day I do both those things in search of a great cup of coffee, lunch, wi-fi and good service. I've been doing it for roughly 4 months now.

And I fail often.

I'm not particularly hard to please; I ask so little of you cafes, bars and hard-working waiters of both genders. It's a simple transaction - you have what I want and I will pay for that stuff. So why is it so difficult?

It's the little things. The cafe I would go to every morning changed it's coffee for what was clearly an inferior brand, yet their prices remained the same: I stopped going there. The lunch place I love for its food and service doesn't have wi-fi: if I need to work through lunch then I pass on this one. And yet another that I enjoy has great wi-fi but abysmal service: I'm looking for better service, and I don't mean wi-fi.

The fixes seem obvious; the cafe may have been hurting in the recession and thought that by buying cheaper coffee they could increase or hold their margins. Wrong! The better way would have been to increase the price of a cup of coffee, explain why to the cafe's customers, and maintain a standard of quality that most would be happy to pay for. Those that don't want to pay more would move along, but those who prefer tasty coffee would stay.

Meanwhile, adding wi-fi and finding wait staff who are pleasant and helpful is just a no brainer.

To all of the establishments I use as examples above [and believe me there have been more,] I have mentioned my concerns but all apparently fell on deaf ears. Which reminded me of a post I read on Seth Godin's blog a long time ago - 2006 to be exact :

If a customer tells you something, there's probably a reason.

"I'd like a water, with no ice please."

Now, while some people like to talk just to hear their own voice, there's probably a bigger reason the person said, "with no ice please." If you're going to be a great waiter, you realize that every single time a customer says something, you need to listen.

You don't have to do what they ask, but you do need to acknowledge it and respond to it.

Bringing ice in the water and hoping they will forget they asked is not good waitering. Or good marketing.


Meanwhile my $$$s keep bouncing around those 130 blocks..