The honest waiter

My wife and I were at a favorite local restaurant for a rare date night. We were scanning the familiar menu, and she found an item she’d never tried. She mentioned it to the waiter, and he said, “Have you ever had that here?” When she said she hadn’t, the waiter crouched down, got close, and said quietly, “It’s not good.” He then went on to recommend several items on the menu he felt were outstanding.

We trusted that waiter for the rest of the night. We deferred to his recommendations on appetizers and dessert as well. And we had a delightful, memorable evening and left a generous tip.

He easily could have just smiled and nodded and let us order whatever. But he was honest, at some peril of being seen as disloyal to his employer. His tactful frankness (he wasn’t snarky or disrespectful toward the chef) endeared him to us and gave him credibility. This waiter cared about our experience and was willing to take a bit of a risk in the effort to delight us. He wanted us to have the best of what the restaurant offered.

We often feel we have to tow a party line in our work. Our public face has to look perfect, and our eagerness to simply meet a customer’s expectation can preclude exceeding those expectations. There’s great value in honesty and authenticity, even when, especially when, it pulls back the curtain a bit to reveal some flaws.

You can earn credibility and trust by letting your guard down and giving your guests or your customers the inside scoop, the real deal on how to make the most of what you have to offer. We’re still talking about that honest waiter and enthusiastically recommending that restaurant. Be honest. Be real. Be remarkable.