I’ve been in the restaurant business for 42 years. I know the importance of impressing customers and taking care of legitimate complaints immediately. My cell phone number is prominently displayed in the dining area and drive-thru of my six restaurants.
What I’ve found out over the years is that while it’s important to value my customers, it’s equally imperative to be someone else’s valued client. In fact, I dare say, I’m the best customer of several establishments I regularly partake. At least I can get them to admit that in public without badgering them. I take great pride in this.
• Friendships-especially those in like-kind businesses.
• Advice seeking from each other.
• Sponsorships--in my case my five-year-old radio program is packed with about 15 sponsors who I trade with.
• Fun--I have a blast in their establishments with them and their employees.
• We help each other out in good or bad times.
Here are a few of the establishments I’m talking about:
• The Renaissance Airport Hotel in St. Louis. I had to pass by this property on my way to work at my first restaurant as a 22-year-old. It had a golf range attached to a carnival. I would often hit a bucket of balls after work. Soon after I moved about 100 miles away, I began staying at the hotel, making friends with salespeople, bell captains, shuttle drivers and concierges. When I married in 2005, four of these friends attended as guests. Every time I go there I’m treated as family. I just went to their 25-year employee reunion where I reconnected with many of my old friends there, especially 90-year-old George, Morris, Larry and the now head of group sales for the downtown St. Louis Renaissance, Becky. I was the only customer invited.
• Matt’s Steak House moved to their present locale on the outer road of I-44 in Rolla. The owner, Matt, worked for me as a 16-year-old in one of my restaurants. He sponsors my radio show and his restaurant is the official location of the Dave Weinbaum Show Prep Meal, where I shall be headed after I submit this column. Matt and his wife Cindy have six kids and serve the best aged steaks IN THE WORLD. One of my companies paved their lot. I bring all out of town guests to Matt’s and have yet to have even one not tout their outstanding food and service.
• Lukas Liquors in Ellisville MO. I believe red wine and an occasional vodka martini are good for one’s health. While I can’t remember what drew me in to this super store, I was shocked at its size and world-wide selections. They also provide you with a trained wine expert to accompany you and help pick out great wines at values that weren’t available for about 300 square miles. If the owner, Gary is in, he takes me wine shopping personally. He has become a friend and one of the few sponsors of my show from the St. Louis Metro area.
Page 2 of 2 - • The Jewish World Review, something I had only read—until I found one of my quotes at the top of one issue. Buoyed by my unexpected success, I sent a column in at 3:00 one February morning. I tested my ability to get my op-eds published in something more than my website and the local papers. Binyamin Jolkovsky, the Publisher, Editor and Owner shocked me when he responded within minutes that he didn’t need any more writers who would just report the news dryly. He thought I had wit enough to be, if not over the edge, dangling on its razor-sharp precipice. So I included the nasty jokes I had redacted from my previous submission and my published history took a huge jump when the Boss, (Binyamin) published my first JWR column on February 7th, 2005. We’ve been friends since. I’ve visited him in Brooklyn where he spent the day with me and my wife on a tour through Flatbush and the Borough.
Never shake a hand when you can hug a friend
Only space prevents me from talking about the other great friends who I met as a customer. They have endured my persona through the years and have saved me in bad times, comforted me through depression and enjoyed our mutually cutting wits along with a few successes.
I look forward to many more years of expanding relationships with these friends, spending time and money in their establishments and helping them as much or more as they have already come to my aid.
These are the folks who, when I call for help at 3:00 AM, don’t hang up—at least not until they hear who it is.