On a recent business trip to Atlanta, I had the opportunity to eat dinner with business associates and friends at what quickly became my favorite restaurant in all of Georgia. During the evenings before our discovery, I (we) had eaten in a steakhouse/pub; I enjoyed excellent ambiance, rare steak, a house brewed pale ale and an amazing fried cheesecake dessert. It was one of the best dinners I’ve enjoyed in a long time; we each left believing we had found the finest eatery in the Big Peach.
Enter Mary Mac’s Tea Room. On our last evening in town and in search of Southern food, we took the recommendation of the hotel concierge and chose to walk the two miles to Mary Mac’s. We were welcomed by three staff members as we entered the front door as only Southerners can do. The ambiance invites you to enjoy Mary Mac’s history; the walls are filled with celebrity pictures, many taken before anyone in our party was born. It seems like the wait staff has been there since the beginning too (some have been serving meals for nearly 40 years!); their collective professionalism is unparallelled. You get the impression that when you return, you will be welcomed as an old friend.
The menu is full of Southern fare that brought back fond memories, as many dishes were family staples when I was growing up. Our waitress engaged us in lively banter and recognizing it was our first visit, brought us soup on the House. Our dinners came on 1 or 2 big plates, plus dishes for the sides. One of my side choices, Dumplings, could have been a meal of its own; it was so similar to the chicken & dumplings my grandmother used to prepare that I was in Heaven.
“You can learn key ingredients for creating customer delight from Mary Mac’s”
The best part of our evening was a visit with Jo Carter, Mary Mac’s Goodwill Ambassador. Jo is the kind of person who is an instant friend. Throughout our conversation, she provided a shoulder and back rub to each of us; which is simultaneously unusual and welcome! The back of Jo’s shirt says “I got my belly filled and my back rubbed at Mary Mac’s”, both of which are true. In the midst of our chat, Jo asked for and received our business cards, asked about our families, jobs and where we live. We each had a great time talking and joking with Jo.
Topping off dinner was pie and ice cream. We didn’t need to eat anymore, but we had to have dessert. We left completely full and thankful for the two mile walk back to the hotel to work a bit of our meals off. Dinner was so astoundingly good and filling that when combined with an outstanding staff, amiable service, an engaging ambassador, Southern hospitality and ambiance, Mary Mac’s quickly became my favorite restaurant in all of Georgia.
Fast forward a couple of weeks following our visit. I received a thank you note from one of Mary Mac’s partners, Hank Thompson.
Mr. Thompson’s letter capped off my impression of Mary Mac’s as a special place. Clearly, Ambassador Jo Carter communicated our conversation to management, who in turn wrote a thoughtful thank you note that accomplishes several purposes:
- Requests that I return soon
- Expresses hope that our dining experience met expectations
- Invites me to comment on my dining experience
- Reinforces MaryMac’s determination that each dining experience is great
- Encourages me to engage MaryMac’s for future events
- Offers an opportunity to experience MaryMac’s at home via their cookbook
- Draws attention to the State of Georgia’s Special Resolution and MaryMac’s being named “Atlanta’s Dining Room”
- Conveys appreciation for our business
- Emphasizes Mary Mac’s family culture
In short, Mr. Thompson’s thank you note conveys gratitude for simply being a customer, invites me to engage, markets additional Mary Mac’s products and services, promotes the restaurant and its culture and reinforces my experiences while there. Accomplishing that many things with one thank you letter, indicates a great deal about Mary Mac’s commitment to quality, hospitality and engagement honed over more than 60 years of excellence.
“Will I return”? Yes! I am a huge fan of Mary Mac’s food, staff, ambiance and management. If you have an opportunity to visit, make sure you go hungry, be prepared for a great meal and expect outstanding service. You will undoubtedly enjoy a memorable meal, make new friends and have an excellent time. Best of all, Jo will welcome you and give you a great back rub.
“Mary Mac’s is my favorite restaurant in all of Georgia”
If you own, manage or work for a restaurant (or just about any other business for that matter), you can learn several key ingredients for creating real customer delight by experiencing Mary Mac’s hospitality and savoring the food while learning best practices to implement in your own establishment. The personal interactions and personal follow-up are two foundational elements of creating memorable customer delight that will keep patrons returning.
I encourage you to visit Mary Mac’s on your next visit to Atlanta; I can’t imagine going back to the Big Peach and not experiencing at least one meal at the best restaurant in all of Georgia. I plan to pick up an autographed cook book and a coffee mug on my next visit.
If you have experienced great service and/or great follow-up and engagement, compliment those involved, let upper management know and then let others know and encourage them to patronize these best-in-class establishments. You’ll be glad you made the effort!
A couple of my previous posts on great service or saying thank you: