Customer Service 101: The Market Chef – Friday Harbor, WA

Oct 13

Many of my friends accuse me of being a food snob. It’s true, I am. But, even greater than my appreciation for amazing food is that of truly outstanding and authentic customer service.  It doesn’t matter if I’m getting an oil change or a seven course meal, I remember much more about how I am treated than the actual goods or services I’m buying. There are a number of “amazing” restaurants I’ve visited around the world with unbelievably good food that I will likely never visit again simply because of poor service or overall bad vibe.

Fortunately, every once in awhile, you actually CAN have it all…

Last week my wife and I took a sailing trip up to the San Juan Islands for our 8th wedding anniversary. While sitting at anchor, I hopped on the Facebook page of The Market Chef one of our favorite cafes in Friday Harbor, WA to check out their specials for the week. Being the off-season, they hadn’t posted the week’s menu yet, so I took a chance with a little shameless begging:

Market Chef - Friday Harbor, WA - RelyLocal

I have to admit – when I got their (unexpected) reply I almost teared up a little. Not because of my year-long cravings for the Cubano, but by the genuine interest this local business has to please their customers.  They could have easily said, “We’re sorry, we don’t have any pork or rolls ready.” But they didn’t – they went out of their way to make a concerted effort to plan to please just one customer. One customer at a time, just like every customer, every day – a culture of true service and excellence that is worthy of our praise. I was not “just another tourist” – they made me feel like their #1 customer!

market_chef_cubanoOne thing led to another and we got a little delayed by fog that Thursday, not getting to port until almost 2:00pm. My wife was confused why I was rushing her, practically running from the dock up the hill to bright red tomato sign that welcomes guests to Market Chef’s cheery outdoor seating overlooking beautiful Friday Harbor. When we entered, Megan saw the special board and literally burst out with a “Yay! They have Cubanos!”

“We’ll take two,” I said, doing my best to hide my schoolboy excitement.

“Oh, no!” said both of the lovely ladies behind the counter in unison. “We only have one left!”

“That’s okay,” I replied “we’ll share it!

“Unless…” the owner hinted… “Are you Steve?”

“I am, I am,” I admitted, “but you can call me anything you want!”

megan_market_chef_cubano“We were about to give up on you guys. We’ve secretly been saving enough just for you!”

My wife looked a little confused, “Huh? How did you know we were coming?”

“We cranked up the smoker just for you yesterday,” chimed a voice from the kitchen.

Before we knew it, we were sitting outside enjoying one of our favorite meals, in one of our favorite places, remarking on the memorable experience offered by some of our favorite strangers. Being the off season, it was fun to listen in as everybody else who visited were locals, calling each other by name, asking about each other’s children, new businesses, upcoming music gigs, fishing, etc…

The Greek had a word for it – Kainay. Community.

Well done, Market Chef. As always, thanks for the memories – even more than the food.


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