No, this isn't about food poisoning, or contract foodservice. Four or five years ago, during winter, we had a couple in and before their entrees arrived the wife asked the GM where the hospital was. The husband was having a heart attack. After they left, I suggested since it was slow, perhaps the GM could bring the food down to the wife. The hospital is about a mile away from us.
The GM did, the husband recovered and the couple was very appreciative and came to to dinner every time they were in the area, eventually buying a house and moving here. They've since returned to the East Coast.
In our constant evaluation of our business I have had the growing feeling we're no longer as hospitable as we could be. After a conversation about one of our servers who always exhibits exemplary warmth and patience I was finally able to articulate the feeling by using the above story as an example. I'm not sure that the people we are now would have done the same thing. We may have thought "Oh how terrible" and perhaps checked in with the hospital later that evening or the next day.
Small businesses are often worried about money, in winter, we're no exception. Small-town restaurant owners are very public figures and are barraged (as are all in the hospitality business) with requests for donations, complaints both reasonable and un, and attacks both personal and business related. Under these circumstances it's a challenge to be hospitable. You don't want give away the store but being stingy with your customers isn't the way to go either.
The main thing for us is to separate work from our lives. Last night the GM said "But, we are the restaurant." My replay was "No, the restaurant is our business. It pays for our lives." By depersonalizing things it's easier to hear feedback. We had taken a good step toward this a few months ago by redesigning our comment card in a way which felt would invite more negative feedback. We braced ourselves for the bizarre and varied responses we were sure to get and to our surprise the most common response has been "don't change a thing, you're great". The negatives we've received have for the most part been honest attempts to help us improve. Some of the issues we can address and some we can't. At least we put ourselves in a position to hear them.
So, hopefully we're once again the place to go if you're having a heart attack.