Today’s part of this two part story is about the good…. Culinary customer service at its best…

Who thought when I’d visit my kids I’d end up with a customer service story. Proving… you can take the wine PR person out of wine country, but you can’t take the PR out of the wine person. And so, it didn’t take long to realize a constant customer service PR theme.

Jose and I recently went to the Ashville, North Carolina, area to visit my daughter Katie, son-in-law Ray, and our two grandsons; Jonathan (14 years old) and Nate (11 years old). Jonathan decided to create a culinary adventure for us, once he knew we were coming to visit.

Both J and Nate have been on ice skates from the time each of them could walk; a tradition for both sides of their families. Now they both play a good amount of hockey, so some of our dining out was due to Jonathan’s hockey schedule while we were there; but, the rest of our dining was based on Jonathan’s choreographing our culinary feasts…

Jonathan and Nate were also having Monday and Tuesday as school-free days, due to workshops in their town. We knew we were flying in Asheville to experience dining out, from the eyes of our 14 year old grandson. Which was quite an adventure. In these experiences was also our final meal, of having leftovers together. He had it all mapped out.

What we experienced, though, was not about the food (it was all very good), the ambiance (also very respectable), and most of the locations (Asheville is gorgeous). The experiences we had had to do with customer service PR; from what to do well, to what to never do, as that could be the kiss of death.

Let’s start at the top, and each one has an excellent PR lesson.

The BEST goes to PF Chang’s in Asheville.

Yes, a franchise location. Menu and decor was created by my wine/chef pal Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A lover of Asian culture and food, Mark has done a great job. As usual, we all loved the food. But, it was all about their approach to PR that really made this restaurant the BEST on our list.

Nate is like me; he has a super palate. He has very few “loves” in food, but he’s also willing to try, and he’s a gifted artist, too. Katie asked a wait server passing by our table if Nate could have the “chop stick set up.” This is when someone ties a rubber band around the ends of the chop sticks, so kids can begin to get the hang of it. The wait server misunderstood, and she brought Nate another pair of chop sticks. Katie apologized for not being more clear in her request, the wait server smiles and nodded, and disappeared… She reappeared with not only the chop sticks “all set” for Nate, but she also brought a children’s menu to him with a box of crayons. Somehow she had picked up the artist in our young man, and delivered something to him that was delightful. Nate spent the rest of his time coloring dragons and Asian cultural pictures until the food arrived. GREAT MOVE.

Our actual wait server was attentive to every detail, and made every effort to give us the best dining experience possible. This had also come after a few missteps (below) by others, so we were given a break at PF Changs.

PR LESSON: We’ll always return with this kind of service, from both our regular server and someone who just took the time to make it the best possible experience that it was.

The BETTER goes to Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in South Asheville.

This one is all things hot, as it pertains to chicken…. unless you get the rotisserie chicken.

I went for mild wings and they’re hot. Katie warned me that everything is hot, just as the name suggests. If you love hot, you’ll love Rocky’s. The food was fun, as was all else. Their PR was also really great. Katie’s order was also a mild order, which she’s ordered numerous times before, but this time it was different in that it was way to much for her. Having been a wait server (through high school and college vacations), she wasn’t afraid to say something.

Our wait server didn’t argue, because no one was going to taste it to get a read on its hotness. She was served another “mild chicken.” Remember, mild will make your eyes water at Rocky’s, if your not a masochist and I say this very affectionately. Her next plate was really down a notch, just in case… They didn’t know her and they weren’t going to take any chances. As she tasted it, she told the wait server that it was milder than normal, but it was okay. She still enjoyed her lunch.

PR LESSON: We’ll always return here, because they made the effort, with no questions asked. While they erred on the side of caution to keep a family returning, they hit a bull’s eye. None of us could be upset with this decision. She knows next time, she’ll get what she wants, no doubt, but also didn’t have to struggle with anyone to have a decent experience.

The GOOD goes to Moe’s Southwest Grill

A fast food, Mexican cuisine franchise, they know what they’re doing and prep for the unforeseen.

PR LESSON: Great attitudes get return customers who build your business. We always do when in North Carolina.. But, they’re everywhere, people. They’ve carefully and purposefully created their own success.

Tomorrow, Part 2, The Bad and the Ugly; and sadly, they truly are…