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“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures” – Michael Eisner, ex-CEO Disney

We have just celebrated my daughter’s 9th birthday. Her birthday is the 20th December. As a result I like to ensure we celebrate it to ensure she doesn’t feel it’s wrapped into Christmas and forgotten, which would be easy to do. Two years in a row I have experienced two great restaurant customer experiences. One spontaneous, one planned, both creating lasting memories and smile on her face making them perfect experiences. Neither cost the restaurants a fortune and both were delivered through small perfectly placed gestures that were executed excellently.

Last year we were in Florida and decided to go to The Olive Garden Italian restaurant. When we arrived Jessica was wearing a Disney birthday badge. The waiter showed us to our seats, clocked the badge and immediately wished Jessica a happy birthday. He then declared that as it was her birthday she could choose her meal first and would be served first. She loved it and he treated her like a true VIP every time he came to the table. When it came to pudding time he announced to the restaurant that it was her birthday, staff gathered round, sang happy birthday and presented her with an individual cake with a lit candle. Brilliant. No charge. Lots of attention. Lots of VIP treatment. We all still remember it to this day.

For this year’s birthday I gave Jessica a choice of restaurant in Cheshire Oaks Retail Park. Cheshire Oaks must have at least ten restaurants all within walking distance of each other. She chose Bella Italia. We invited some friends and I called the restaurant and booked a table for eight in advance. Aside from the usual booking details, that included the number of people and my name, I was also asked whether we were coming for an occasion. Not thinking twice about it I explained it was Jessica’s birthday and the table was booked.

On our arrival we were shown to our table. It was decorated with helium filled balloons, crackers and a little basket with some chocolates and party poppers in it. Realising that no one else had received the same treatment we felt instantly special, smiled lots and sat down. The waitress came up and asked whose birthday it was and wished Jessica a happy birthday and had a chat with her about what presents she’d had. Brilliant. We enjoyed our meal, pulled the crackers, messed about with the balloons and party poppers and had a great time. Sorry if we made a mess, but we had fun. Jessica even ate a chocolate before the meal!

The Olive Garden experience was created through empowered people being encouraged to be observant and act to deliver many small gestures. The Bella Italia experience was created through one carefully placed question that enabled them to execute a perfectly designed experience through many small gestures. Michael Eisner was spot on, we were very happy, will return and tell our friends about the great experiences. I now feel the pressure for her 10th birthday.

Written by a very proud dad - Paul Morris - Customer Experience chief and Brand Vista's newest member.

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