On a First-Name Basis with Customers
News travels fast in a small town, and there’s not much happens in Richards Restaurant on the south side of Hartford City, Indiana, that doesn’t soon circulate through the city. So the news that longtime store manager Steve Stafford had bought the business spread quickly.
“Some of my customers had been telling me for a while that I ought to do it,” Steve says.
In January of last year he decided to go for it. He and wife Michelle now own the franchise Steve managed for 29 years. Michelle works as secretary for the business. “She does more than she lets on,” Steve says. He continues to oversee the day-to-day operations, But now as owner, he’s now calling the shots.
“I really enjoy it,” Steve says. “I’ve taken on a few more responsibilities than I had before, but it’s nice to be making my own decisions. I represent a newer generation and bring a fresh way of thinking. I’m open to a lot of new things.”
This has not escaped the attention of area residents. “We’re growing our customer base,” Steve says. “They’ve responded well.”
We caught up with Steve and Michelle when they stopped by the GMI office recently to go over changes to their new spiral bound menu. They plan to promote their catering and banquet services by placing a take-away copy of the catering menu in a plastic pocket inside each dinner menu.
As a lifelong resident of the county, Steve knows his customers’ likes and dislikes. “In a small town my customers are more like family,” he says. “I treat them that way. And they treat me like family, too.
“For some of the people who come through our doors, this is their only meal out for that day or week and I want them to enjoy it. I do all I can to make that happen.
“Not many people get to know their customers the way I do. That’s a nice thing about living in a smaller place. In a larger community you can’t get to know people as well. I try to learn every customer’s name and refer to them by name. It makes a difference.”