The co-founder of The Home Depot volunteered some home-maintenance advice after my phone went dead three times during an interview last week.
“You have to pay your phone bill,” Bernie Marcus said with obvious merriment when we reconnected. “Now you can do it online or through e-mail. It’s really easy.”
So was interviewing one of the best-known entrepreneurs in American retailing, even if I’m a restaurant writer who doesn’t know more about The Home Depot than what I’ve experienced as a customer. Hearing Marcus recount his late-‘70s vision for the category killer, I could’ve been listening to any restaurateur reliving a start-up. Still, the details were different enough to provide a unique perspective to chain builders in foodservice, which is why we’ve booked Marcus as a keynote speaker at our Restaurant Leadership Conference.
Consider, for instance, how Marcus and partner Art Blank tried to differentiate The Home Depot through its style of service. They wanted their associates on the floor to be teachers who could guide customers through a project, not drones who’d merely fetch a product or take down orders to fill. If there are restaurateurs still in business who don’t want their wait staff to know the menu inside and out, I’ve yet to meet them. And if the server can enhance the experience with recommendations or insights, isn’t that preferable, if not ideal?
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