Building a rapport, a key to business

Have you been out to eat and you see the manager out trolling tables asking surface questions, like how’s your food, everything ok, etc?

At some point, this person was told that they should interact with the customers. Being a diligent manager, they make sure about every hour or so, they make the rounds and basically follow up on the wait staff, by asking the same questions that their staff does.

Have you ever been out to eat and the manager brings out some water, your food order, or a bottle of wine and strikes up a conversation?

This is the manager that gets it.

People like restaurants for the food, but love them for the atmosphere. When I lived in Germany for six years, almost every place to eat served almost the exact same food–schitzel. How does one differentiate between one place and another when they all served the same thing?


I would go back to the same place to eat because of the people that worked there. They took the time to know me…know what I ate and drank and what I did. They established a rapport.

Last night, I took my parents and wife out for a birthday dinner (wife and mom have birthdays one day apart) to Myron’s Steakhouse at Wurzbach and Northwest Military in San Antonio. If anyone has been to both this one and the original one in New Braunfels, the original has a better ambiance.

The food was great. The service was great. But, the tables are small and it’s not the same as eating at the original one. Get a booth if you go.

Then the manager brought out our wine…that changed everything. She never introduced herself as the manager and asked how things were ( we thought she was the wine steward at first). She simply struck up a conversation and continued that conversation throughout the meal at key times and even talked to us before we left. She made up for the little things.

Lesson Learned here: In business, building a rapport makes up for the little things.

I’m sure you’ve heard that you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. No matter how hard you try to please everyone, there are those at some point that want something different. Your job, as a manager, is to make up for the little things.

Establish a rapport by being honest and interested in your customers as people. Do this early in the relationship. There are many ways that you can insert you early into a business relationship to deliver something.

Think about the manager at Myron’s. She brought out the wine–the wine is something you order early in a meal (if you get it by the bottle), so she owns a process that inserts herself in the relationship early in the night and then it allows her to comfortably check in on us without seeming like she is usurping her staff’s role as our server.

This might also allow her to prioritize the customers that she wants to build a rapport with. Let’s face it…everyone should focus on their key customers (Pareto Principle, right?). She delivers a bottle of wine because these people are easily spending $50 to $100 or more on their meal than others. It’s a simple consideration…these guests are spending more money, so I’ll focus most of my attention on them, because I want them to come back.

These are tricks that you could use as well. There could be something that is a bit higher level that you provide to more discerning, higher paying, or power customers that sets them apart from the other 80%. Maybe you could provide that service to establish that key rapport as the manager of the work?

Now I’m not saying that anything the manager did was by design…that just might be her thing or the way Myron’s operates; however, it worked. The waiter certainly could have opened and served the wine…they do at many restaurants. They could of had a wine steward that brought out the wine, like many high end places do. However, that isn’t what happened and it seemed perfectly normal.

I would say that my wife and I probably would not have ever gone back because we were sitting at a small table and it just didn’t feel the same as the other store. Now though, there is a good chance we will go back (and ask for a booth) and would hope that the same manager is working.

All because of rapport.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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