The jelly basket. I travel a lot and I’ve learned how to spot a good breakfast restaurant by applying these two benchmarks to the jelly basket at the table. The first deals with quantity, while the second addresses presentation. If the jelly basket has lots of brand-name strawberry jam (preferably Smucker’s) and some grape jam, you’re probably going to get good service and a good meal. If the basket is filled with grape but no strawberry jam, you might go elsewhere. If the basket is filled with no-name orange marmalade but neither strawberry nor grape jam, you definitely should go elsewhere.
Second, but of less importance, is the presentation of the jelly basket. If it’s in disarray, that’s strike one. If it’s missing altogether and the waitress has to go find it, that’s strike two. If, when she returns with it, it’s filled with orange marmalade, you got it – strike three.
No stooge here.
I met an irrigation contractor from the East Coast at a seminar I conducted. He wanted me to benchmark his company. However, his wife thought my services were a waste of time and she didn’t hide her feelings the morning of my one-day visit with them and their company. I told them not to tell me how much they were charging for their products and services. During the remainder of the morning, the three of us reviewed financials and prepared a thorough budget for the upcoming year.
After lunch, I calculated their irrigation service technician’s rate and told them they should be charging at least $75 per man-hour. The wife grinned, looked at me and mockingly pronounced, “We’re already charging $85 (per man-hour).” I could tell she wanted to put her thumb on the end of her nose, give me a Three Stooges’ salute, and say, “See, we don’t need your services after all.”
I knew this was a good rate to charge. It handily beat my national minimum service technician benchmark rate of $60 per man-hour. I also knew I really wanted to humbly say to the wife, “Gee, don’t I look foolish.” But I held my tongue and asked, “Tell me. How do you present your rate to your clients?”