As I mentioned yesterday, my wife and I spent the previous week vacationing in Panama City Beach. We've gone there nearly every year for many years. We enjoy the beaches, and there are several restaurants that have been our favorites for years. I love fresh seafood, and the food and service at these places are always excellent.
However, returning home was another story. After driving three hours we stopped at a chain well-known for their breakfasts. We've eaten there before and had a pleasant experience, but that was not the case this time. Our waitress never returned to the table once our meals were brought out. No refills on coffee, no asking how things were, no bill. I finally went to the cash register to pay, and our waitress asked if I had my bill. I told her she had never brought me one, and she just laughed.
Several hours later we stopped for lunch at another well-known chain. It wasn't the cleanest restaurant I've been in. Even though it was not a rush time, half of the tables had not been cleaned. After waiting for several minutes the manager finally came by and asked if anyone had taken our drink order. He took the drink order, and our waitress soon came for our meal order. The table behind me kept asking her for things he had ordered that she had never brought. My wife's drink was finally brought out, but mine never came until several minutes later, and it was wrong. She took it back and got into an argument with whoever fills the drink orders over my drink. After several more minutes went by and my drink and our food never arrived we got up and told her to just cancel our order.
There are several learning opportunities from these two events. We could focus on a lack of proper training, poor management that wasn't aware of what was happening in their restaurants, hiring people with poor attitudes (it was obvious that both our waitresses had attitudes), a lack of good systems, or a host of other issues. But, I think there is a root cause that goes deeper than any of these.
I think the main culprit was that they failed to appreciate their guests. Located near an interstate they may think it's not important to treat their customers well. Millions of people will pass by and some will stop so who cares if any returns because of poor service? While that might work for a while, eventually people will get tired of such shoddy treatment and take their business elsewhere. And, because both of these were chain restaurants, people will transfer the treatment they received at these restaurants to others in the chain.
Does your church appreciate its guests? Have you trained your congregation how to welcome your church guests? Maybe you think it's not necessary since you haven't had any guests in recent years. Did you ever think there might be a reason for that? I once heard a speaker say that there are many churches a person can attend so why would God send first-time guests to your church if you weren't ready to receive them?
As I've posted here before, I am in different churches nearly every week. More than a few of them treat their guests no better than we were treated in those restaurants. I can tell you that we will not be stopping in either of those restaurants again, and first-time guests will not return if they are not welcomed in your church.