Lessons From a Waiter

My husband and I had dinner the other evening with friends at a local restaurant. We were seated, had a cocktail and looked over the menu. After a while the waiter arrived to tell us the night’s specials and take our order. I ordered first and the waiter then turned to the other woman in our party to take her order. She asked him to give her a moment while the rest of our party placed their orders. The two gentlemen placed their orders and now everyone but the fourth in our party had ordered. [We have all been in this movie, haven’t we?]

The waiter turns back to our undecided dinner partner and asks if she has made up her mind. She has not. She rattles off three potential choices-a fish, a pasta and vegetarian entrée-clearly unwilling to commit. The waiter stands and waits. Finally, she feels the pressure and quickly, but with no real enthusiasm, orders the fish.

So what is the marketing lesson here? My observation is this: One important indicator of a good restaurant is the quality of its wait staff. And diners, like lots of consumers are really just waiting to be guided to a decision. If you want people to frequent your restaurant, hire and train great people who enjoy engaging with customers. And know that diners may come to a restaurant hungry for something but not at all sure what they want to eat.

Your job as a marketer for a nonprofit is to help your wait staff [aka fundraising] team become part of your marketing team and recognize that their job includes helping casual but uncommitted diners [aka donors and prospects] select your organization because you figured out how to present them with something they only vaguely knew they wanted all along.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.