So, I recently went to a new restaurant, and they did something extraordinary. It’s one of my go-to spots now – I keep going back.
Of course, the food was great. But the reason I keep going back is not the food. This restaurant did one thing in particular that made me come back.
The best part?
It’s a great lesson for anyone running a business – not just for restaurant owners.
Let me tell you exactly what happened. From the beginning…
Right as we walked in, they asked…
“Are you here for the first time?”
I said, “Yes,” and I didn’t think more about it.
Then, as I was looking at the menu, I couldn’t decide what to order – everything sounded good.
You see, this is a southern barbecue place. Basically, you order a type of meat plus a few different sides. Then they bring it all out in separate bowls, along with their signature BBQ sauces.
Yeah, it’s delicious.
Anyway, I couldn’t decide which meat to get. So, the waiter gave me his recommendation: “Get the beef.” But then he added…
“Get the Beef. You can try the pork when you come back next time.”
Cool. I ordered the beef.
The evening went on and we enjoyed our meal. The food was delicious. The service was A-plus. The whole experience was great.
But I did NOT expect what happened next…
The waiter asked if we wanted dessert. So we glanced at the menu. Again, lots of great choices, but we decided to skip dessert that night.
“Okay, I’ll bring the check,” our waiter said.
But He Didn’t Bring the Check. Instead, He Did THIS…
The next thing that came to our table was not our check.
Instead, they brought out a small piece of chocolate cake!
“As a first-time guest, this is our little thank you for coming here tonight. We’d love to have you back.”
It’s a small gesture but… pretty awesome, right?
This is what I call a WOW Experience.
It was already a great experience. But the “free dessert” made me like this restaurant even more.
And it made me REMEMBER IT.
Now, when I’m thinking about where to eat, guess which place will pop into my mind… That’s right, the place where I got a free dessert!
It’s pretty simple: When you delight your guests like this restaurant did, people keep coming back. Or at least, they’ll come back once.
The chance will increase with each visit that they’ll come back again and again. In other words, the likelihood of creating a repeat customer goes through the roof.
Do you think a small piece of chocolate cake is worth creating more loyal guests?
One repeat customer is probably worth 50 pieces of cake – or more!
Can You Use This In Your Business?
Let’s talk about what’s really going on here.
And most importantly: How can you use something like the “free dessert” tactic in your own business?
Well, there are TWO effects at work here…
1. Most restaurants won’t give you a free dessert on your first visit.
This place did.
And I remember them for it because…
What stand out gets remembered. What blends in gets forgotten.
You don’t have to give out free stuff. You just have to do things a little bit differently than everyone else.
9 out of 10 restaurants would just bring out the check. There’s nothing WRONG with that. But is it memorable?
No, it’s exactly what your guests expect. Because it happens at every other restaurant.
This creates an opportunity for you:
Instead of just going through the motions, you can create a much more powerful moment. With something as simple as a free piece of cake.
By the way, Chip and Dan Heath wrote a great book about the Power of Moments – you should check it out.
But there’s another reason this worked so well…
2. Small favors can create MASSIVE goodwill
By using one of the strongest psychological triggers ever:
The Rule of Reciprocity.
Basically, it means: when someone does you a favor, you want to return it.
The rule of reciprocity is why the Hare Krishna hand out flowers… Before they ask you for a donation.
It’s why when someone tells you, “Hey, you look great!” most people respond with, “Thanks! So do you!” It’s also a big part of content marketing.
But it’s not a new idea in marketing at all.
Copywriting pioneer Claude Hopkins even wrote in 1966:
I never tried to sell anything, even in my retail-store advertising. I always offered a favor. I talk of service, profit, pleasure, gifts, not any desires of my own.
This is fascinating.
When most people hear “selling” they think it’s about getting people to do THEM a favor by buying.
But Hopkins flipped the script…
His whole concept was: “How can I do my customers a favor, so they’ll want to buy from me to reciprocate.”
Here’s just one great example from Hopkins’ career:
At the time Hopkins was selling Cotosuet, a sort of butter substitute used for baking pies. He was supposed to sell it to a baker in Boston.
Instead of leading with a pitch, Hopkins showed the baker an advertising card for Cotosuet (picture a cardboard store-display, or something like that).
On the card, there was a picture of a pie. So Hopkins told the baker he wanted to hear his “expert opinion” on the pie before the cards went to print.
Asking a baker about a pie? Of course, the baker was happy to offer his opinion.
So together they designed the perfect card.
Then Hopkins told the baker, “You can have it.”
In fact, he suggested that every store where the baker’s pies where sold should have one of these displays.
And that’s when he made his offer:
“With every carload of Cotosuet, I’ll send you 250 cards with your name on it. All I ask is that on the card it will say that your pies are made with Cotosuet.”
The baker ordered 4 carloads of Cotosuet. Along with enough displays to put one in every store.
Yes, this example is different than giving someone a free dessert at a restaurant…
But the point here is:
Like the free dessert, it was unexpected. And by asking for his opinion, Hopkins made the baker feel good about himself.
Then Hopkins framed his offer as a favor by putting the baker’s name on the displays. And what happened? The baker reciprocated the favor by ordering Cotosuet instead of the competing product.
So, whether it’s a free dessert or your name on a display…
An unexpected, small favor can have a massive effect.
People will remember you.
Plus, chances are they’ll want to repay you by doing you a favor in return.
Now It’s Your Turn
Now let’s turn this over to you:
How can you use what you learned from these examples in your own business?
Specifically, can you do your customers an unexpected, small favor?
Let’s brainstorm in the comments. And if you’re doing this already – great. Let’s hear about it in the comments, too.