Every summer, my family vacations on Cape Cod because, in the words of the old Patti Page song, we're “fond of sand dunes and salty air/Quaint little villages here and there....” As anyone who has visited the area can tell you, behind each of those sand dunes stands a seemingly endless string of restaurants and clam shacks with identical menus and interchangeable names (Ahab's, Capt’n Parker's, The Yankee Clipper…). Each establishment boasts “The Cape's Best Lobsters/Chowder/Fried Clams.” You can almost imagine that every buttery lobster roll or fried seafood plate is cooked in the same gigantic kitchen.
Yet, for all of their similarities, some of these spots thrive year after year while others last only to the end of the season. Why do these restaurants have varying levels of success when they are all offering the exact same menu? The difference is in the execution:
- The successful spots offer exceptional hospitality. Note the smiling hosts, caring managers, and well-trained servers. At the shack with the longest line of diners, you never have to ask a sluggish waiter to wipe ketchup from the duct taped vinyl booth or to bring silverware with the meal.
- Success is also based on operational systems that are simple and dependable. Sunburned families can trust that their piping hot dinner will arrive at the table before the cranky younger cousin finishes a second baggie of oyster crackers.
- The best restaurants are well-tended with clean rest rooms, new looking menu boards, and freshly painted trim. Patrons aren't greeted by the unappetizing scent of cheap disinfectant, stale beer, old cooking oil, or the dreaded "fishy" smell.
Even in the most casual settings, the secrets to success in hospitality are not a mystery. Placing a premium on care, cleanliness, and consistency makes all the difference. The companies who do this are the most financially stable and earn an ever-growing fan base.
Having returned to Chicago some ten pounds heavier, I find myself dreaming of my loved ones, laughing around a table filled with succulent lobsters, a quahog or two, and a round of ice cold beer. Patti Page was right:
If you spend an evening you'll want to stay
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay.