What Does Loyalty Look Like?

This is a bit of a longer post than normal. I have a story to tell and I’m going to end this post with a question rather than making a point.

I’ve been a huge fan of Buffalo Wild Wings for as long as I can remember. I mean, I love wings, and their Parmesan Garlic sauce is incredible. We’ve even trained up the next generation to love it as well. Our kids have been begging us to take them to get wings for weeks now so we finally relented and decided to take them.

Our visit did not go as expected.

When we walked in I first noticed a sign by the check-in desk. They were looking for servers and you could start working this week. Just talk with the manager.

It made me flashback to when I was in college. I had spent the summer before as a food server at Texas Roadhouse. When I moved to California for school I assumed I’d be able to get a job at a restaurant out there. I remember applying to restaurant after restaurant only to be told they didn’t need more servers. I ended up working at Office Depot after realizing that working at a restaurant wasn’t going to happen for me.

The ‘Great Resignation’ has changed things.

After we ordered, our food came out one person at a time. This isn’t how most restaurants do it, but I’m fine with it. The problem is that we have seven people in our family (which takes a bit) and all of us got our food except Michelle (who ordered a chicken sandwich). We had each finished eating by the time I tracked down our server to inquire as to the status of my wife’s dinner. He brought it out and apologized by saying that he was literally waiting for it in the kitchen. I believe him.

We asked if a manager could comp Michelle’s meal since she was essentially going to take it to go. Rather than comping it the manager stopped by and asked what we wanted. We explained the situation to her and she explained this was a corporate policy to bring food out as it was ready. We understood that, but one meal came out significantly later than all the other meals. She didn’t seem to care and kept explaining corporate’s position, even telling us she’s frustrated with them too. This struck me as an easily-missed opportunity over a $10 meal.

We went back and forth with the manager for a bit. At one point, Michelle even asked if she was a mother herself as a mom isn’t likely to hold up her entire family for her to eat her food. The manager wasn’t a mom and didn’t seem to understand. She reluctantly agreed to comp it anyway and walked off. We both laughed when we got the check and the discount line said “guest did not like.”

As we were paying, Michelle asked our server who that manager worked for. He said that she was the top manager. Michelle tried to clarify her question about who she worked for when our server literally waved to Michelle, said “bye,” and walked away. We sat there stunned.

Even with a horrible experience I still can’t leave a bad tip. I tipped our server generously and loaded our kids in our van. I realized Michelle wasn’t with us.

She had gone back to tell the server he owed her an apology. Apparently, he thought we complained about him which is why he had heard enough of us. When Michelle explained her frustration with the manager he apologized to her for his actions.

(As a side note for future servers or managers, this whole thing would have been dramatically different with ten bucks and a moment of empathy.)

So here’s the dilemma: I have absolutely zero desire to ever go back to that restaurant again. My love for Buffalo Wild Wings does not cover what we experienced. I’m not saying I’ll never eat at one of their other restaurants again, and perhaps they couldn’t care less about our family’s business.

But this experience has me thinking through the dynamics of loyalty. I realize I’m just a customer of a restaurant chain, but should my loyalty to the brand cause me to overlook this experience? Especially when I know they are likely shorthanded?

Or, are we justified in moving on and finding places that don’t treat their families like this? Let’s up the ante a bit.

I’ve been on staff at different churches for nearly two decades and tried to help people invest themselves into the community. And that was a challenge for all of those years. Post-covid I hear my pastor friends talk about this as an even greater struggle.

The parallels are easy to find. Our family had a brutally painful church experience in Oregon. But we haven’t walked away from the church collectively. That’s because we’ve had years and years of good church experiences. However, if you suggest I should have stayed in our local church in Oregon after everything that happened I couldn’t disagree with you more. So how do we navigate a sense of loyalty?

Said differently, how much is enough to change your involvement in something you love? Obviously, the more you’re invested into it the more it should take, but I’m sure we can all acknowledge that the line exists SOMEWHERE for each of us.

What does healthy loyalty look like?

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co. https://linktr.ee/JeremyJernigan