Last weekend I had the opportunity to dine at the Davis Street Tavern. Unlike the experience I had at another place a few months ago, this is worth a big shout out. It’s a small place and half of it was reserved for a birthday party, leaving little room for walk ins like us (we were third on the list). While the host took our names, she mentioned up front that it could be a long wait, but we were welcome to grab a beverage at the bar. So we did. Awhile later she mentioned it was going to be a lot longer and encouraged us rather to grab a seat at the bar where they served the full menu if one became available. Fortunately it wasn’t long before that was so!

It was then we connected with the other bartender, Kara. From the start it was clear she enjoyed what she did. Engaging in friendly banter, providing tastes of proposed wine and making recommendations, and showing up with a delectable date courtesy of the chef, she made the evening. Our host came by a couple times to make sure all was okay as well.

This experience had it all – atmosphere (warm and rustic) – and bustling, great food, and service handled with incredible grace despite how busy they were. I also noticed a number of people coming in and sharing hugs with the staff – a clear sign they either have a lot of friends stopping by or made friends with the customers over time.

Contrast that with this experience where it was not busy. Our server couldn’t have cared less, and they never followed up to my feedback – which they invited, making me think they give it lip service.

What’s remarkable about our experience at Davis Street is that it’s really not that hard to do – yet most restaurants and businesses don’t deliver like this. For many it’s simply a transaction. They miss the bigger picture – that of creating raving customers who’ll come back rather than choose the gazillion other places available. And as a result, so many don’t make it long term. In a restaurant, great food is just the beginning – creating that connection makes a huge difference – even when you cannot give the customer exactly what they wanted (which in our case was a table).

So props to Davis Street Tavern and their great staff front to back. They created wow and delight on a cool, rainy evening. And I’ll go back in a second – and if you’re ever in Portland, recommend you check them out. Be sure to ask for Kara too.

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