Even as “For Sale” signs and vacant windows greet passersby on busy streets throughout California, a small Italian restaurant, Mama D’s, is thriving. Yes, the food is amazing, but that’s not what makes Mama D’s stand out: It’s all about the business model.
Treating customers like superstars
During a recent visit to Newport Beach, California, I happened upon Mama D’s as we were searching for a lunch destination. We arrived literally as they were opening the doors, and were surprised to find a number of people waiting for the door early on a Wednesday. As we were seated, and the waitress gave us menus, I was struck by the unusual quote on a menu insert. A quote from Apple’s Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.“
Quirky way to approach running a restaurant – but it works. The waitstaff were cheery, helpful, and friendly, and apparently go through more customer service training than you’d believe. Yes, as I mentioned above, the food is amazing – but it’s Mama D’s emphasis on customer service that sets them apart from other restaurants.
I was so impressed by the business angle of this restaurant, I took the opportunity to interview Spencer Forgey, General Manager of Mama D’s Italian Kitchen. My first question – when did Mama D’s first open?
Spencer: “Mama D’s was originally opened in Manhattan Beach in 1992. The Newport Beach location was opened in July of 2005, by Keith Davidson.”
“Keith Davidson? Is he related to ‘Mama D?”
Spencer: “Keith Davidson is the son of Mama D. All recipes have been handed down from prior generations of the Davidson family, who originally migrated to the United States from Italy.”
Is Mama D’s being impacted by the recession?
Spencer: “The recession has not had many recent effects on us. Over this past summer, we managed to accomodate more guests than ever before in previous years. Business is at an all time high, as we continue to strive to give every guest a superior experience.”
What advice would you offer to other businesses that may be struggling during the economic downturn?
Spencer: “It is absolutely necessary to bring integrity into the business world. When you operate with integrity, you are respected by your employees. When your employees are happy, your guests are happy. It is so important to honor your guests, treat them like gold. They are the reason for your success.“
Most businesses would agree that good customer service is really important – what made Mama D’s decide to focus so solidly on making sure that everyone who works there follows through with that great attitude?
Spencer: “When guests come to Mama D’s, they come for the experience. That is what we bring to every guest that walks through our doors. We are on a mission to blow the doors off ‘business as usual’. Our guests live very busy, stressful lives. We are determined to relieve each guest of stresses from the outside world every time they enter our doors, and we are so very grateful for the opportunity to do so.“
Business success despite downturn
There you have it. Customer service really counts – you can ask Mama D’s.