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What Memory Do You Want to Leave Guests With?


The lasting impression can mean more business or you may never see them again.

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, my wife and I visited the same restaurant twice in six hours. Both experiences were completely different.

We like to visit the Magic Kingdom at least once per year and we always go Skipper’s Canteen, a Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant. It’s a fun place, where the servers crack jokes and get in character as the skippers of the Jungle Cruise ride in Adventure Land.

We had such a great experience for lunch, we booked a reservation for dinner. Proof that quality service and staff focused on guest experience will lead to more business. However after returning for dinner, we may try a new restaurant during our next Disney vacation.

Here’s what went amazing the first time and not so great the second time. These takeaways can help shape a guest experience that will keep customers coming back.

When a server cares

We arrived for lunch and were greeted by a friendly host staff. They confirmed our reservation, checked us in, and walked us through the dining room.

“Right this way to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers room,” our hostess said. “Your server today will be Ryan. He’ll be with you in just a moment.”

A bookcase in the “Society of Explorers and Adventurers” Room in Skipper’s Canteen in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Joe Pye.

Naming the room and remembering to tell us made the moment memorable. There was something unique that created an experience. We in no way were “VIPs” – everyday customers like everyone else but it felt special.

Our server came to the table and immediately cracked sarcastic but tasteful jokes, which is what the restaurant is known for. It was clear Ryan was an experienced server and understood how to execute the mission of the restaurant.

He was witty, fun, but most important – he was an attentive server. Ryan regularly checked in with our table, making menu suggestions to us and every table in his section.

Months ago, my wife jotted a note in our travel itinerary that we were celebrating our 3-year wedding anniversary. Four days into the trip, and Ryan was the first server to actually do something special for us.

I’m still not clear on how he knew but he brought us a special dessert without either of us telling him we were celebrating on our trip.

I couldn’t help but feel this guy paid strong attention to hospitality, making an emotional connection with our table and everyone else’s, and truly made an outstanding guest experience.

We were so impressed, we left a 30 percent tip and booked a reservation for later that evening. Sadly Ryan wasn’t there on the next visit.

Good or bad, guests will remember

Later that evening, we were once again greeted at the host stand and checked in. The restaurant was no busiers than it was earlier that afternoon. But from the start our experience had shifted.

We just walked to whatever nearest table. There wasn’t much of a story this time, although all the rooms in this restaurant have names. The hostess didn’t tell us the server’s name and she eventually made her way over to the table.

She was pleasant and kind, but didn’t get into the character or go out of her way to bring on the memorable experience the restaurant is known for.

A dessert brought to us by our server, Ryan. Photo by Joe Pye.

There was a feeling that the night shift was a C Team, where the afternoon had the A Team on staff. It’s understandable not every employee is a rock star but if creating a theme is the mission of the restaurant, then everyone should make an attempt at making the experience immersive.

Alas, the magic was gone. It was as if we were dining anywhere for any reason. It’s just interesting how noticeable a shift in experience we noticed at the same restaurant in only a few hours.

Servers like Ryan keep customers coming back. When the focus isn’t on bringing the most memorable experience, diners can spend their money anywhere. The goal should be to keep people hooked on the experience and keep them coming back.