Last week on the big TenneBama vaca, I went to one of the three restaurants in my hometown (And no, I’m not joking…there are three: a Mexican joint, a barbecue joint, and a place with a bona-fide salad bar / sports bar combo called Legends.  Sure, there are fast-food restaurants that hold their own – especially the Burger King that required four days’ worth of cops directing traffic when they first opened 12 years ago (true story!) – but as far as sit down, you’ve got basically three that are worth going to.  But I digress…)

The Legends salad bar / sports bar combo is the “fine dining” option in town, meaning that typically the menu doesn’t have salsa or barbecue sauce stains on it.  We usually hit it at least once when we’re home, and I’m very glad we did this time.

My sister had called ahead to let them know we had a party of seventeen (yep, big family), and when we arrived during the lunch rush, the seater up front wasn’t really sure what to do with us.  Apparently, our party of seventeen and another party of eleven were too much to bear.

Suddenly, out popped a waiter with a larger-than-life personality.  He recognized my sister, took control of the situation, and led us to our table.  I found out that Steve was a regular waiter for my family, and they were pretty excited that I was going to get to witness his wow-worthy waiter skills.

Steve took our drink orders first…with no notepad.  Not too terribly impressive, because just about everybody in our family orders Legend’s famous fruit tea.

But then, he came back for our food order.  Seventeen people…seventeen different menu choices…at least fourteen different special orders (my family is picky)…and Steve nailed every last one of them.  Not a single order was wrong, though not a single order was written down.  He remembered every last detail.  Hold the mayo on your burger?  Check.  Extra cup of ranch dressing for your potato chips?  Not a problem.  Want your fries extra crispy?  Can do.

But Steve’s amazing memory wasn’t the most impressive part.  No, in a local service economy that’s usually known for poor customer care, Steve was the architect of a very good experience.  He was entertaining, he was responsive, he was attentive…

He owned it.

Steve probably doesn’t make more than a few bucks an hour before tips.  But I would hasten to guess that if his customers are smart, those tips are very good.  Because the food, although good, is nothing spectacular.  The atmosphere, while arguably the nicest in town, is nothing memorable.  But the service?  The service is something that’ll keep me coming back.

I told Steve at the end of our meal that if I had the power to do it, I’d move him to North Carolina and put him to work here at the Summit.  I told my family that if they had any sense at all, they’d make sure Steve was a believer (if not – bonus witnessing opportunity!) and use his expertise to build a guest services ministry at my home church.

The church world needs more Steves…men and women who are attentive, who are responsive, and who take control of the situation and design the experience on behalf of the guests.

Great job, Steve.  You bring truth to the name of your restaurant…you truly are a legend in your own right.

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