Wednesday, August 6, 2008

“Terrible Customer Service”

BOLL proudly presents...
...A Pietist Relativism production...
...In association with Sidesaddle/Withered Creek Publications...

From the Director of "Style over Substance" and "Oh! New! Relevant!"

The critically acclaimed release of the year...

“Terrible Customer Service”
A Purpose Driven, Missional Play by Mike Baker

Narrator: “We come upon Stan, a middle-aged father of three, who is driving around in his pastel blue minivan in search of some place to eat. After driving around for quite some time, Stan settles on the Coral Ridge Restaurant. He decides not to hassle with the long line in the drive thru so he finds a decent spot in the massive parking lot and drags his family through the front door. There he is met by the smiling host, Chet, who is wearing a “Real Men come to Coral Ridge” T-shirt with tie-dye print.”

Chet: “Good morning, sir, isn’t it a great day to eat at Coral Ridge?”

Stan: “Yeah, sure. Can we get seats for four? I am starving.”

Chet: “We hear that a lot around here. You have come to the right place. This place is so popular that we had to expand our play area and put in a new parking lot.”

Stan: “….good for you. Are there seats available?”

Chet: “There is always seating available. Right this way, sir. So… is this your first time here at Coral Ridge?”

Stan: “Yes. I have heard a lot about it and wanted to see what the buzz was about.”

Chet: “Fantastic. We are really blessed and encouraged when we hear about the impact that we are having on the community. Did you get our promotional mailer?”

Stan: “Um… I think I saw something about it a few months back while I was looking for that water bill…”

Chet: “Fantastic. Here is your table, sir. Just so you know we are very family oriented here at Coral Ridge. There is a huge play area with sock puppets and clowns for your little kids. We also set up a child-friendly dining area so that the adults can enjoy their meal without being disturbed. The kids tend to have more fun that way, too.”

Stan: “Uh… thanks, but I want to eat with my kids. They can go play while I am waiting, but I am going to have them sit with me during the meal. We eat as a family.”

Chet: “Huh… interesting… I guess that would be okay. Go have fun kids!”

Stan: “Okay, let’s get down to business. I am starving.”

Chet: “Wow, it really sounds like it. I hate it when I am hungry. It really is a struggle sometimes. I guess that’s why we’re all here, right? Hehe. Say! Would you like some coffee to start out?”

Stan: “You know what, that sounds really good. I have been really run down lately. I could use a pick me up before I eat.”

Chet: “Exactly. Being a single dad must be tough. Divorce is never easy.”

Stan: “…actually, I am a widower.”

Chet: “I am sorry to hear that. It must be so hard for you to raise three girls on your own.” [Chet takes a moment to hug Stan in an uncomfortable embrace.] “You know, Coral Ridge can really help you out. We have day care every day so that you can take some time off and relax.”

Stan: “Really? I thought you guys were a restaurant. You run a day care?”

Chet: “Yes, sir! We got certified a month ago. We also have a home economics class, a swim team, a softball team, a yoga class, a quilting group, a fraternity, a youth group, a tween group, an interim tweeny youth group, S.T.A.R.S., H.E.A.R.T.S., M.O.O.N.S., F.O.U.R.L.E.A.F.C.L.O.V.E.R.S., an Alpha class, Beta class, Theta class, M class, semi-annual coffee drinking contests, three musical bands, and seven book clubs. Feel free to join the one that best suits your need. If you need a group that we haven’t thought of, please let us know and we’ll get it started right away. Coral Ridge is here to really serve the community.”

Stan: “I am really speechless. You guys go all out. When do you find time to cook?”

Chet: “Oh we knew it was going to be tough from the start, but we have an amazing staff and everyone works really hard in their particular area of interest. It really is a miracle that we are able to do all of this on such a tight budget. We have taken this humble little restaurant and made it into so much more than it used to be. It is effective, relevant, and really serves the people of this community. Here’s your coffee, sir.”

Stan: “Nice! This coffee cup is huge!”

Chet: “That’s what everybody says! We really pride ourselves on our coffee. No restaurant in town brews coffee like we do.”

Ted: [Walking up frustrated and confused] “Hey, Chet, I’ve been sitting here for a really long time and I haven’t seen my plate yet. I am on, like my eighth cup of coffee, but I really need something more substantial. Can you get someone over there to help me?”

Chet: “Sure! No problem. We are always here to help you guys. I’ll tell you what, enjoy the music from the live jazz band for a few more minutes and I will be with you personally right after I am done talking to Stan. I’ll tell you what. I think you are ready for the real stuff. It is obvious that you are ready for the house blend espresso roast. That stuff is really potent and will fix all your problems. Hey, Ted, have you met Stan?”

Ted: “No… my name is Ted. How are you doing?”

Stan: “Good. This is quite a place they’ve got going on here.”

Chet: “I’ll say, I come in here twice a week.”

Stan: “Really? You’d think they would treat a steady customer better than making you wait so much to get some chow.”

Ted: “It is no big deal. The purpose of a restaurant is to attract new customers. I understand that. A long time ago Chet’s family opened this restaurant to attract customers and feed them. I can’t blame Chet for putting so much effort into meeting the needs of people who may have never walked into Coral Ridge before. Coral Ridge is all about outreach. You can’t feed people if they don’t visit your restaurant.”

Stan: “I guess that makes sense. I’m no restaurant expert.”

Ted: “Plus, we have the best coffee in town and the live bands are amazing. I really feel at home here and the clowns in the kid area take good care of my kids. I don’t even have to look after them or teach them anymore. Coral Ridge does it all for me and they have certified people who are way more qualified than I could ever be. I am just a CPA. What do I know about all this stuff? It looks like my espresso is ready. I’ll see you guys later tonight for the Hearts Ablaze Smoothie Fellowship and Happy Hour.”

Chet: “Bye, Ted! It was really good talking to you.”

Stan: “Bye, Ted... I hope they let you eat soon. Hey, Chet, what is good here?”

Chet: “The coffee.”

Stan: “No seriously. Coral Ridge sounds like a seafood place. Do you guys have good seafood?”

Chet: “We tend to not really push the seafood. We have found that many of our new customers are turned off by the fish smell. We also have quite a few people who are from landlocked areas. They are not really into that whole fisherman thing. It is not what they know… you know? Plus, a lot of seafood restaurants have been in business for decades and they don’t understand how many people are allergic to shellfish! Isn’t that tragic? A restaurant that can’t feed everyone what they want is not doing what they should be doing.”

Stan: “Well then why the ocean-related name?”

Chet: “Oh… this area is a coastal community. After we conducted an extensive survey of the local neighborhoods, we found that Coral Ridge was the most marketable name for our restaurant. It really speaks to our intent to be a part of the community. We are all about serving the community.”

Stan: “Whatever… how about pasta. Do you have any good pasta?”

Chet: “Nope. Today’s people do not want to be weighed down by high carb foods. Pasta is not relevant to the modern customer. Nobody wants to be fat. It lowers their self worth.”

Stan: “Mexican Food?”

Chet: “…Too ethnically exclusive.”

Stan: “Wings and Pizza?”

Chet: “…Too masculine. Women 35-50 tend to shy away from that kind of food.”

Stan: “Fried Chicken?”

Chet: “...Too southern.”

Stan: "Sandwiches?"

Chet: "...Too traditional."

Stan: “Steak?”

Chet: [Gasps in shock] “What would the vegans say!?! Vegans are customers, too, Stan. Next you’ll be recommending that I make this place a steakhouse! Where are the vegans going to eat, Stan, huh? What about the poor vegans?”

Stan: “You know what? Just give me a menu.”

Chet: “Oh we don’t believe in menus. We find that menus are restrictive. Who wants a restaurant where they tell you the things that you have to order? Menus are so academic, inaccessible, and impersonal. People go into those places and order the same thing over and over again. It is almost like they don't even really pay attention to what they are ordering. They just read off the menu and eat what is given to them. We much prefer a personal relationship approach to the dining experience. Don’t you think that some menu restricts the broader vision of your food selection to have a menu in front of your face?

Stan: “No, the menu helps me know what you serve and what I should order… wait… you are slamming menus but your answers to my questions a few minutes ago just restricted by choices to saltine crackers and this wonderful coffee. What is the difference between a written menu and you just telling me what I should eat for dinner verbally? At least the menu forces you to be consistent.”

Chet: “Well… um… I’ll have to talk to the legal department about that one. Be right back.”

Stan: “No! If you go away, I may never see you again. Just bring me some food from the back… anything. And bring my kids something simple that I can convince them to eat. It doesn’t matter, just give me some food. I am starving at this point.”

Chet: “Well, you’ve been here for over fifteen minutes. You should be past that whole hunger thing by now. You admitted that you were hungry when you came in. You followed me to your seat. You drank the coffee. We really need you to become a self-feeder at this point. Here… put on this shirt and go wait some tables with me. The Coral Ridge family has to stick together and we’ve got some really needy customers tonight and I can’t help them without you. Besides, you are coming here pretty late in the evening. You’ve got some catching up to do if you are going to meet your service goal by closing time.”

Stan: “Listen to me, Chet, I am hungry. You are running a restaurant. Where’s the food? I have my own job down at the factory. I don’t have time to wait tables during the few minutes that I have to eat. My work is hard and I need food to keep me going. After you give me what I need, I still I have to help the kids with their homework, get them ready for bed, and crash so that I can get enough sleep to get up at 4am for the first shift.”

Chet: “We are all really busy, Ted. I understand your struggles. The thing is that each member of the family of Coral Ridge really should pull their own weight. Don’t you realize that there are people coming through that door all the time who were as needy as you were 15 minutes ago? It is not fair that 10% of the people sitting in this restaurant are doing 90% of the work. Here. Fill out this talent survey. It will help you determine if you should work as a barista or if you would be better suited for working over in the play area. You like kids after all. Maybe you are being called to be our next balloon clown. The last guy quit for some odd reason.”

Stan: “I’m not here for a job. I have a job.”

Chet: “…but working at Coral Ridge is so much more fulfilling than at that stinky factory. I understand that you have to make a living, but look at how happy everyone is here. Besides, these people need our help. There is nothing more important than running a quality restaurant. People need to be a part of a restaurant that loves them for who they are.”

Stan: “What they need is food… and I am still hungry.”

Chet: “If you are so hungry, you should have brought a boxed lunch or something. Oh! You should join one of our small home nutrition groups. They are run by customers just like you and you sit in a relaxed atmosphere and learn about food.”

Stan: "Me hungry... You restaurant... Stan need food from restaurant."

Chet: "Now you are just being confrontational."

Stan: "Finally... you are actually listening to me."

Chet: "What you need to understand, Stan, is that there is a difference between a healthy restaurant and a fit restaurant. Healthy restaurants are harmonious and are doing what they are supposed to, but it is possible to be healthy and not fit. Fit is something totally different. Fit is extending beyond healthy and having the ability to really change the restaurant business for the better."

Stan: "............what?!?"

Chet: "You seem confused. I get that."

Stan: “No you don't get me at all. I am hungry. You aren't feeding me. That's because this is not really a restaurant. All you guys serve is coffee and play music. You may call yourselves a restaurant, and you talk a lot about being a good restaurant, but real restaurants serve food to hungry people. Having good coffee and entertainment is okay I guess, but I could go to Starbucks if that is what I was looking for. I didn’t come here for all of this junk. I came here to eat. The coffee and entertainment is all well in good so long as there is still food being served. That is clearly not happening. I think you guys have gotten a little distracted by all of the entertainment and advertising. You have forgotten why your family opened this restaurant in the first place: to feed people. I bet some people come in and don't even realize that they are supposed to get some kind of food here. What good is attracting people if you have no food to serve? Since you seem determined to help me do everything but get what my stomach demands, I am going to take my family elsewhere. We need to eat. Kids! We’re leaving!”

Chet: “Don’t go! You just got here!”

Stan: “Good bye, Chet. Good luck with your ‘restaurant’ and thanks for the coffee.” [Stan walks out with his kids.]

Ted: “Did Stan just leave?”

Chet: “Yeah… he decided that he wanted to go somewhere else. It is sad. Thank God that he admitted that he was hungry when he came in. If he hadn't done that, he might have starved to death. At least he felt lead to come down and sit at a table... even if it was only for a few minutes. We'll call him in a couple weeks and invite him back.”

Ted: “Yeah… the whole Stan thing is pretty discouraging. You know, we have a lot of people who leave like that.”

Chet: “Don’t worry. The program consultant predicted that we were going to lose a statistical number of visitors in the first couple of months of this new business plan. Most people who come in are just not going to stick around and be regular customers. We should level off to a steady number of about 800 customers here in the next couple weeks. This is normal.”

Ted: “Stan seemed pretty passionate… we could have really used him here at Coral Ridge. He seemed to know a lot about nutrition. He would have been perfect as a nutrition leader.”

Chet: “Yeah, but he couldn’t get past the whole “food” thing. He just couldn’t realize that people have so many more needs than just sitting there stuffing their faces. People aren’t going to go elsewhere for coffee and entertainment. If we don’t do these things who will?”

Ted: "They could go to a coffee shop. I hear lots of restaurant customers visit coffee shops from time to time."

Chet: "Yeah, but coffee shops aren't restaurants, Ted. People need to come to restaurants."

Ted: "I... don't really see the difference anymore."

Chet: "Don't be so negative, Ted. Everyone gets discouraged at times. Running a restaurant is not easy."

Ted: “Stan has a point about the food. I’ve lost, like, 40 pounds since I got here and I get woozy when I stand up too quick.”

Chet: “I’ll pray for you Ted. I’ve been there before, too. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go back inside and get yourself some more coffee. If you still feel bad, I may be able to go scrounge up a power bar or even one of those diet shakes.”

Ted: “Yeah. That always makes me feel better for a few minutes. Thanks, Chet.”

Chet: “Anytime, brother, anytime.”


Narrator: “Starving and more than a little angry, Stan drags his family into the little diner across the street. It is dirty, poorly lit and is filled with old people. On the surface, the diner is not as flashy as Coral Ridge, but that doesn’t matter. Stan can smell the food. He steps inside and is met by a grumpy-looking old man and his wife.

Olaf: “Howdy, folks. You hungry?”

Stan: “Starving.”

Olaf: “Heheain’t we all? Hans, cook this boy up a special with extra gravy and I need three specials for his kids. Give them extra gravy, too. Oh, and lots of vegetables. Call me judgmental, but the oldest child is looking a little peekish.

Stan: “What’s the special?”

Olaf: “It’s what everyone is eating today. It is just what you need. You’ll love it. The special changes on a regular schedule, but it is still the same food week after week. None of that trans-fat, high fructose garbage that passes for food these days. Just food the way my grandpa taught me how to cook. Here is our menu. It’s all there in black and white. After we get this first course in your belly, you can pick what else you want to try. Most people skip the desert, but that is really the best part. Try it on my recommendation.”

Bill: “Hey Olaf, when are we going to expand this place and do more than just your grandpa’s cooking?”

Olaf: “We aren’t, Bill, so quit asking. I am here to cook. That is what I am here for. I already let you come in and do karaoke on Tuesday nights for the people who are into that kinda thing, but that is not what we should be all about. If you want to go dancing or make balloon animals then go home and do that on your own time. Right now, you are working here to feed hungry people. You’ve had your lunch break so get back on the line and help Hans get those specials out. If you are tired of running the fryer, then put this sandwich board on and go stand outside. Tell the people on the street that there is food in here. If they are hungry, they'll come in and we'll feed them.”

Bill: “That may have worked before, but hungry people don't just walk into restaurants anymore. We need to do more. Look, I am just trying to get more people in the door. Most of your old customers have died off, started eating out Italian every night, or gone to that Greek restaurant down the street. What is a diner without new customers? Maybe we should invite those guys from Coral Ridge over here to teach us a thing or two about running a restaurant.”

Stan: “NO! I just came from there and they don’t feed people! That place is bogus! Take it from someone who has just come from that place. It isn't a really restaurant at all.”

Bill: “Really? I thought their coffee was fantastic. Why are you being so harsh?”

Hans: “And what’s wrong with our coffee, Bill? I work hard on our coffee.”

Bill: “Look, Hans, I’m not trying to criticize your coffee. I am just saying…”

Hans: “I miss the good ole days when Olaf’s father used to serve the meals with metal forks and metal knives. Back then we only served German dishes and it was fantastic. Ever since you started working here, we’ve been selling out. Kareoke, non-German food, plastic forks, it just makes me sick. It is almost like we aren’t a restaurant anymore.”

Olaf: [Lays down the specials for his new customers] “Quit your bickering, you two. I am so tired of this argument. This restaurant has been around for a long time and we’ve had tougher times than this before, remember? Bill, we are not going to stop serving food and we are going to stay away from anything that distracts us from our job as a restaurant. Get over it. Hans, don’t loose sight of the fact that serving food is the really important thing. We should not overcompensate and make it all about how food is served. If Bill wants plastic forks and it doesn’t really affect the taste then we can talk about what the best decision is. Remember that it is all about the food.”

Stan’s Little Girl: “Dad? When are we going back to Coral Ridge? That place is fun.”

Stan: “It is fun, but we didn’t go there to have a good time. We went there to eat. Did you see any food there?”

Stan’s Little Girl: “…no. They didn’t seem to care very much about food. It was all about all the other stuff. It was fun, though.”

Stan: “Hungry people need food. We have plenty of time and money to go have fun elsewhere, but we still need to eat. Chet has forgotten about that. You may not like this place as much right now, but at least you are getting what your body needs. Eating can be fun, but it is the eating that is really important. Fun without food is not eating. A restaurant without food is just a building full of hungry people. It is easy to get destracted when you are not starving, but your body can't go long without nourishment. If we stayed in Coral Ridge, we'd never get any food. Now, finish all those vegetables.”

Olaf: “I didn’t get your name, friend.”

Stan: “I am Stan. These are my kids. This place could use some work, but the food is still really good. It is food as it should be served. I am here for the food.”

Olaf: “Good to meet you, Stan. We are doing our best. There is always room for improvement, I guess.”

Stan: “Well, you are doing better than Chet across the street.”

Olaf: “Chet is my business partner. We are family. Our two diners used to look the same. A few years ago he listened to some slick businessman and revamped our second location. He took our family name off the sign and added a bunch of extra buildings. Most of my customers go over there now. They haven’t figured out that there is no food at “Coral Ridge”. I hear that Chet is thinking about expanding again to open a casino and his cooking show is supposed to start broadcasting next month.”

Stan: “But that isn’t really feeding people.”

Olaf: “I know. I keep trying to tell him that, but he won’t listen. He does not see the difference between just talking about food and actually feeding people.”

Hans: “Coral Ridge has ruined this place! I am so sick that we are even associated with them. We should just cut ties with Coral Ridge and let them go off and do their own thing.”

Olaf: “No. We are family. We have to keep reaching out to Chet. Maybe he’ll get a clue and go back to running a restaurant instead of just marketing his restaurant. It seems obvious that the business beauru is not going to help us out by making Chet change his business practices. It is up to us. If we don't teach Coral Ridge that a restaurant is all about food no one will.”

Hans: “Chet and his customers wouldn’t know food if it hit them in the face. Those guys are a lost cause.”

Olaf: [Pointing out the window] “Maybe not…”

Ted: [attempting to sneak into the diner]“Hey… are you guys still open? I gotta get something to eat or I’m going to pass out again.”

Olaf: “Come on in, Ted. It’s been a long time." [Olaf hands Ted a basket of dinner rolls which Ted quickly starts to eat.] "There's plenty more where that came from. ...How's Chet?”

Narrator: "The moral of the story is: If you truly love a starving man, you will put your own passions aside and feed him." [Or... never trust a skinny cook.]