The Restaurant Experience That Changed My View on Church Hospitality

Guest Services

Recently I was hungry after getting my haircut, and stepped into a new restaurant in town. The inside was pretty boldly decorated, with bright orange, yellow, white and black. It was eye-catching, to say the least, so my expectations were pretty positive.

I was waited on by the owner, and the experience quickly went south and never recovered.

By the time I left, it was clearly obvious to me that this person cared about my money, but didn’t care about me.

Stay with me, though, because this isn’t really about restaurants.

The man never made eye contact with me… Never greeted me… grew impatient with me while I looked at the menu, and never offered to help.

“What can I get you?”
“What to drink?”

Those were the only words he spoke to me. I stood there waiting without any direction, no offer to have a seat, no explanation of how long it would take, etc.

When my food came up, he shook the bag in my direction to get my attention, and when I took it he turned around and walked away.

Here’s the deal… This man won a sale today, but not a customer. I’m quite certain, no matter how the food tasted, I will never be back.

Not only that, when others mention the place, I will most likely give them my honest feedback, And they will likely lose another sale.

In that kind of world, a business may be able to survive for a while, but eventually they will run out of first-time guests.

Any successful business knows that the greatest way to survive is winning a relationship, not a sale. If your customers will not buy from you again, your business will die.

In our churches, it would do us well to understand how everything about our church connects with people. It may not always be possible to get a guest to return a second time, and we may not always be able to bridge the gap for them. But, if we are not trying, we should not expect them to try us again.

I’m firmly convinced that church growth has very little to do with the songs we sing, the era of our music, the charisma of the pastor, how fancy our website is, how fervent our evangelism efforts are, or how exciting our services are. Don’t get me wrong… those are all wonderful things, and certainly have a level of impact. I teach about excellence in all of them.

But, none of those things will matter if our guests never return to see our “show” again.

Every person has a felt need to be wanted… Genuinely, and demonstrably. If they don’t feel important to us, it can be guaranteed that we will not be to them.

Attentive love is what turns first-time guests into repeat customers.

Feel free to give feedback on this! Have you had a similar experience? What was your takeaway? In what ways can this influence the way your church handles guest services?