Red Lobster, Village Inn, and Olive Garden get the “Caught Being Good” award for the week.
Remember my Uncle Eldon? The World War II veteran who spent time in a German prison hospital? How is he doing, you might want to know.
He’s doing well. Reaching toward 92 in less than two months, he’s holding his own. He is getting more feeble and frail. His voice is weaker. He uses a walker and has to have someone holding on to him at all times. But he still tells you he is terrible when you ask how he is. He can’t see and can’t remember but he can still recognize a pretty girl. And he can still sing “You Are My Sunshine” and “Blessed Assurance” with me when I call.
He lives at home, lovingly cared for by his wife, home health care nurse, and daughter. In order to keep him socially engaged, they go out to eat for one meal a day, a rotation of four different restaurants that also includes a local Mexican Restaurant. They are such regular customers, the staff knows them by name. Aunt Charlotte is the lady who distributes fortune cookies to the servers.
One day, as the hostess at Red Lobster led them to their favorite table in the back, right next to the bathroom, she asked, “Why don’t you go out the emergency door when leave so you don’t have to walk all the way to the front?”
“Because it’s an emergency door,” Aunt Charlotte replied. Duh.
“Not for you.” The server called for the manager to let them leave by the emergency door which happened to be right by their car. “Next time you come, you call ahead. You park right next to the emergency door and we’ll have someone waiting to let you in.”
The other three restaurants quickly recognized Uncle Eldon’s special needs too. The Olive Garden servers, knowing the family always came at the same time on the same day, would save the first table nearest the entrance for them. Village Inn started to save a table for them next to the restroom.
It doesn’t take much to make a difference. It wasn’t that much of an inconvenience to the staff to save a table or unlock an emergency door. Now, they’ve done it so many times, it has become routine. Yet to this elderly couple who daily fights the battle of declining memory, deteriorating sight, and debilitating weakness, it means the world. It makes what would otherwise be a monumental struggle for Uncle Eldon, possible. These restaurants have truly learned the meaning of putting the customer first.
One day, as the couple left Red Lobster, Aunt Charlotte turned to the manager. “We aren’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to do this.”
The manager held the door. “This door will be open for him as long as he can come.”