Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. In some cases, our mistakes can even lead to better outcomes. In the book Setting the Table, Danny Meyer quotes his mentor, “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.” It’s all in how we handle our mistakes and the lessons we take from them that truly matter.
Below I shared his approach to mistakes, one that I believe applies in any situation or business. It is not just about apologizing, but being specific about the remedy and building a pathway to regain trust. We cannot avoid mistakes (nor would we be wise to do so), but we can use our mistakes to lead us to become better at our craft and maybe even bring joy to others as Danny does through his concept of “writing the last chapter”.
Awareness – Many mistakes go unaddressed because no one is even aware they have happened. If you’re not aware, you’re nowhere.
Acknowledgement – “Our server had an accident, and we are going to prepare a new plate for you as quickly as possible.”
Apology – “I am so sorry this happened to you.” Alibis are not one of the Five A’s. It is not appropriate or useful to make excuses (“We’re short-staffed.”)
Action – “Please enjoy this for now. We’ll have your fresh order out in just a few minutes.” Say what you are going to do to make amends then follow through.
Additional Generosity – Unless the mistake had to do with slow timing, I would instruct my staff to send our something additional (a complimentary dessert or dessert wine) to thank the guests for having been good sports. Some more serious mistakes warrant a complimentary dish or meal.
Image credit: CC by Andrew