I met a friend for breakfast at one of those establishments where the waitress calls everyone “honey” and the food is down home. The smells coming from the kitchen and the overall ambiance of the place let me know that a plate of biscuits and gravy was somewhere in my near future.
When the meal finally came it looked great. I went to adjust my plate and it felt cold to the touch. The food had been sucking up the coldness from the plate and what looked like a killer breakfast was growing more and more lukewarm with each passing minute – not something that helps gravy remain appetizing.
In college, I worked as a fry cook at the original Elmer’s restaurant in Portland, Oregon. In fact, Walt Elmer the founder of the restaurant chain hired me on the first day of school when I stopped by for breakfast and he offered me a job as I paid my bill. The rule at Elmer’s was to always serve a customer’s meal on a warm plate. This allowed the food to retain its heat to remain appealing and tasty.
The cold plate metaphor applies to a business, a church and our personality. We can have a great product, a unique place of fellowship or a life filled with valuable experiences to share with others, but if we serve these offerings with a cold demeanor it really doesn’t matter how great the product, the fellowship or the experience we have to offer, we probably won’t get repeat business.
Rarely, will someone be honest enough to let us know the first time around that the presentation of what we offered was less than appealing. This speaks not only to our presentation it also applies to the overall environment where we do business and the attitude of those we work alongside in the execution of our shared mission. Everything in life must be evaluated to make sure that all the parts are working together to create a warm presentation that lets people know we have anticipated their needs. This is the heart of a servant. It is also the heart of the Father.
That day in the diner was an isolated event. I let them know about the problem. I am guessing the cook got to the kitchen late that morning and didn’t turn the grill on early enough to heat his workspace. In his rush, my plate was not up to a proper temperature for serving food. I have gone back to that restaurant many times after that one morning and the plates have always been warm and the food outstanding. They will always have my business because not only do they serve great food, but everything is warm from the waitress who calls me honey to the great food served on a warmed plate. They will also have my return business because they are willing to listen to their customer’s input.