Why settle for processing guests when you can choose to serve them instead?

behind register_00086[1]When is the last time you experienced exceptional customer service at an arena or stadium? In my experience, employees at these venues regularly treat event guests like nondescript masses of humanity: processing them, each one like the last one, at various entrances before ushering them past overpriced concessions en route to their designated seating areas.

Over the weekend, I attended a Rockies game at Coors Field in Denver, CO. During the second inning, I stopped by the on-site SandLot Brewery. There, I stood in front of an empty section of a sparsely occupied bar to place my order. Directly in front of me on the other side of the counter, were four employees: three bartenders and, judging by his attire, a manager. I waited a full minute without being acknowledged and then, looking to my right, made eye contact with another bartender who was about 20 feet away tending a busy section of the bar.

Her facial expression seemed to ask, “Are you being helped? Can I get something for you?” I smiled and waved my hand to convey that it was okay. I was certain that one of the four employees directly in front of me would acknowledge me at any time. Remarkably, I was wrong. After another full minute passed, I proceeded to the busy section of the bar where I placed my order with “Red,” the redheaded bartender with whom I’d made eye contact.

As she served my IPA, she said, “This one’s on me. I’m sorry you had to wait.” What a breath of fresh air during an otherwise stagnant service experience. I thanked her before moving on to another part of the brewery, beer in hand, to order a BBQ brisket sandwich. A few minutes later, I was back at the bar in Red’s section enjoying my brisket sandwich and beer. As often happens with brisket sandwiches, I soon realized that I needed a fork. Red noticed too and promptly left her station to retrieve a fork and knife for me from another part of the restaurant.

When she returned, we had a nice chat while I finished my meal during which I commented on how refreshing her customer service was in an environment typically known for processing guests rather than serving them.


  • How likely is it that I would order a to-go beer from my new friend, Red, versus an unfamiliar beer vendor in another part of the stadium?
  • How likely is it that I would offer Red a generous tip to recognize her exceptional customer service?
  • How likely is it that I would choose to feature Red in a blog post recognizing her exceptional customer service?
  • When returning to the SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, how likely is it that I will look for Red and be intentional about occupying her section of the bar?

This quiz is not hard to ace, just as exceptional customer service is not difficult to provide. It simply requires a choice. Red chose to exercise initiative in the moment of choice and to expend discretionary effort in favor of her guests – even as four of her coworkers chose to focus elsewhere.

It occurred to me later that, even at a sparsely occupied bar with three separate teams of bartenders serving three different sections of the bar, Red’s section was the busiest. Are you surprised? I’m not. And if I had to bet on which bartender earned the most tips, established the most relationships with guests, and enjoyed the highest job satisfaction, Red would be the clear favorite.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer by Maha Mohtaseb.

  • simplysickaboutthis

    I am so glad it all worked out and you were happy! See you next time Steve! All my best ~Red

  • Not sure when I’ll return to Coors Field but I am certain of this: When I do, I’m returning to the SandLot Brewery and looking for my friend, Red. : )

  • Kristen Volek

    I’ll be there 🙂 your book is wonderful! happy summer to you! Thank you for the kind words!

  • Hi Steve, thank you for sharing your story. The curious thing is why the other members of staff chose not to help you. Wouldn’t it be good if we could understand their thought process? Nicola

  • Nicola, I believe that each offending member of the staff did not intentionally ignore me. (In my experience, this rarely happens.) Rather, I believe they unwittingly treated me indifferently. In other words, they were so consumed with their job functions (the duties/tasks associated with their job roles) that they lost sight of job essence (their highest priority at work, which, for most service industry employees, is to create a delighted customer). I have a theory about why this happens: It’s because most managers focus exclusively on communicating/observing/measuring/rewarding job function. Energy flows where attention goes. And, in many work environments, little (if any) attention is paid to job essence. Thank you for taking the time to read/comment.

  • Totally agree Steve, It does come from the culture of the business. You are welcome enjoyed the article so I should say thanks for writing it.