I’ve been reflecting lately on what brand of hospitality we want to project here at Rebelle. Because owning a bakery was a career change for me and I had no prior experience in the field, I’ve learned hospitality on the fly through the daily hustle of running this place. Every customer interaction, positive or negative, makes me think about how we want to approach hospitality.
So here’s kind of how I do it. Maybe my style doesn’t match your style, and that’s OK. I’ve decided it is both easier and more consistent to adopt a hospitality style that is authentic to our personality and brand as a company (which in turn is a reflection of my own style). Even if it’s not a match for 100% of the people who walk through our doors, it’s served us well to date.
Our goal: We want to get you on the best possible start to your day. We talk a lot about how, for a lot of customers, we’re the first people they interact with on any given day. That gives us so much power to make their day awesome if we do things right! Moving quickly to prepare your food, remembering your name and usual order, a little banter or small talk, good music on the speakers, seeing the same faces daily: I think these are the small levers we can pull to get you started on a good day, as much as we can influence your mood. So we try.
Sometimes we screw up, and we always try to make it right. Our team is experienced enough at this point that we don’t make too many mistakes. But sometimes it happens, from little things like we forgot a topping to big stuff like “sorry, we don’t have the bagels you pre-ordered and paid for” (EMBARRASSING). How we make it right depends on the gravity of the issue and I’ve given the team a high level of autonomy to decide on a solution. Everyone on the team has power to remake food, issue refunds and comp items (free stuff) without a manager present. The idea is that we all form an intuition for what’s the solution that matches the gravity of the problem. (Free cookies help a lot!)
Not everyone is our customer, and that’s OK. Retail norms dictate that the customer is always right. That’s not really the way we run here. Some customers are not nice, or they’re clueless, or their expectations are grossly misaligned with what we offer. We get a lot of feedback from customers and we hear it all, and then we decide what’s worth incorporating. I know there are a lot of people who come in to try us and don’t really dig it, and we make it a point to thank them for trying us even if it’s not a good match. And rude people get the boot, no exceptions. We’re here to serve you, but we’re not servants. I stand up for my team!
Want to speak to the owner? Sure! I made a decision early on to put myself as the owner front and center in everything Rebelle. Not because I’m hungry for fame, but because I think we all like knowing who we are buying from. I like that if customers have a complaint, or praise to share, or a question, they can email me directly. I can always keep a finger on the pulse and know how people feel about what we do by corresponding with them directly.
Everyone gets treated like friends; our regulars get treated like family. We aim for super friendly service for everyone, and we form an even stronger bond with our regulars (talking about those who come 2+ times a week). We know their names, their order, their family and their work. We crack jokes, exchange silly emails, and bounce off interesting ideas. We’ve hosted a kid’s birthday party, we’ve given business advice to new startups, and sharpened knives for our regulars. We fall in love with all the babies and miss our regulars when they move away. This is hands-down my favorite part of running Rebelle: this universe of beautiful, amazing people that revolves around my shop. I feel more love than I know what to do with!
What do you notice about hospitality in the businesses you frequent? What do you like and dislike? Share your thoughts!