Lessons from the Locals: Settler
(originally published for the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - March 2020)
There was one word that kept coming up as Shanna and Aaron talked about their approach to customer service; family. At Salem’s newest restaurant, Settler, you really do feel like family. From the moment you walk in and Shanna’s warm welcome greets you at the door to the smiles and team approach from the staff, you feel right at home. Every business needs a philosophy and approach to customer service. That philosophy should answer how you want your customers to feel. Or, as Aaron and Shanna referred to them, how you want your guests to feel. They made a really great distinction that grounds their customer service approach. Shanna explained that for her a guest is someone who is joining you for a period of time whereas a customer is just a transaction.
Starting with the language they use, Settler is creating a philosophy around their experience.
The next important step is to ensure your staff feel the same way. At Settler “we want the staff to feel like an extension of our family, but to put their own stamp on it” was how Aaron explained it. And there are two key steps Aaron and Shanna have taken to ensure their staff feel comfortable and confident in the roles they play to offer an exceptional guest experience. Prior to opening, the staff all received a modified version of the business plan. It gave them insight into Shanna and Aaron’s story from Washington, DC to New York City and the eventual return home to the North Shore. It shared their vision for Settler. Having this information gives the staff an insight into the Why behind the restaurant. Knowing the Why enables them to bring their own flavor to the guest experience while staying true to the vision Aaron and Shanna worked so hard to create.
The second key step in creating a family experience for guests is to host a family meal for the staff every day. Settler has an intimate menu full of local ingredients and seasonal dishes. To authentically service these dishes and answer questions from guests, the staff need to taste and experience it themselves. Sometimes this means Aaron is making accommodations to meet the dietary restrictions of his staff.
The effort and care he puts in for them is a window into the effort and care he will offer any guest who needs an adjustment to their order. The staff know this and can readily answer questions guests may have about adjustments to the menu. As I left my time with Aaron and Shanna I felt like I was leaving friends. They have truly made their space at Settler feel like home. And the overall lesson was clear, the way you treat your staff is the way your guests will be treated. “Happy people equals happy guests” was the sentiment shared by Shanna and Aaron.