Don’t be toast – small things matter, sometimes a lot

Every Saturday, I find myself playing the role of ‘taxi driver’, needing to take a trip into town to pick someone up and give them a lift.

As is the nature of these things, it can involve a bit of waiting and I have worked out that by arriving a little early I am provided the perfect opportunity to grab a coffee (of course a slice of cake) and watch the world go by.

This routine has been going on for a couple of years now and although I wouldn’t say I’m considered a regular just yet, the cafe staff do recognise me. [I am yet to achieve full regular status – one where your order is being prepared before you open the door – “Brrriing….Hi Chris, Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi?” – was great for my dinner, terrible for my waistline, but I digress].

Over the years, I’ve seen the cafe undergo several changes, both in ownership and style. Some of these have been good, some not so much and a recent experience got me thinking about the essence of quality.

What makes quality, and more pertinently what ruins it.

Quality is subtle and often evolves gradually. Fresh furnishings wear down over time, maybe to be replaced; menus adapt to local tastes, find new styles or just adjust to what sells best.

Yet there are also simpler things that can serve as talismans of quality no matter where you are. For gelaterias, it is undoubtedly chocolate ice cream, and for the humble British cafe, the ham and cheese toasted sandwich (for me at least).

Now I am not asking for artisanal sourdough bread, a mix of three cheeses, or home-baked oak ham, delicious as this may be. No this was a sneaky lunchtime snack, simple white sliced bread, cheddar cheese, and supermarket pork shoulder ham was just fine, and most of the time has been… however, it does need to be done right.

Toasted properly, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle; Cheese properly melted, a little gooey or even better a little toasted; and importantly it needs to be served in a helpful (if not cheery) manner.

The difference between this ideal and the undercooked slabs of cheese, unceremoniously plonked in front of me the other week could not have been greater. To add to my misery the travelling plate spilt my coffee, which I had to find and then search for a napkin to clean up.

It struck me how much these small things greatly enhanced, or in my case degraded, my experience and perceived value of the time there.

It was not like this cost extra, in time or money, it just needed a little extra care.

A little extra makes all the difference

Excellence it seems doesn’t always require grand gestures or Herculean efforts. Often, it’s about consistently taking that little extra care, and spending a few additional minutes to add those extra touches.

This may be as simple as tidying up, fixing that broken chair in the coffee room, or spending a little extra time ensuring a deliverable is perfect. The good news is finding the idea or the task needed is really not difficult.

The real challenge, however, is doing whatever it is, consistently, every time, time and time again. It may feel old or routine to you, but for each customer, even an almost regular like me, it’s a new experience and it does matter.

Small, consistent efforts accumulate over time, leading to higher quality, a better reputation, and ultimately greater success. Not doing it starts to normalise poor quality and the same spiral, just in reverse.

So, whether you’re enjoying a ham and cheese toastie or delivering that board report, it seems that little bit of extra effort makes a huge difference.

It doesn’t have to cost the world but can mean a lot.

Have a good week, everyone.

This entry was posted in Observations. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *