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As a reformed meat eater (I’ll eat anything that swims, walks or crawls in the water but not on land – at least not anymore) it seems strange for me to get excited about a burger joint, yet here we are. I just caught a glimpse of this incredible little Kansas “fast food” restaurant on Sundance (yes, the TV channel), and all I can say is this: I wish I didn’t have to drive all the way to Lawrence, Kansas to eat there. (They have non-meat items on the menu.)

Hey, at least Local Burger gives me a reason to go to Kansas someday… Though I hope someone with deep pockets will catch wind of this incredible concept, take the time to go eat there, and make it possible for Local Burger to open more restaurants around the country – starting with wherever I happen to be living.

Why am I so psyched about Local Burger? Simple: I happen to think that the old adage “we are what we eat” is true on every level. I care very much about the quality of the food I eat. I am not a big fan of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers or food additives. The more natural, sustainable and respectful the farming techniques, the better.

Evidently, the folks behind Local Burger feel very much the same way, which is rare for… a hamburger joint.

From their website:

“Local Burger is leading the evolution of fast food with fresh, organic, local, and sustainable fare that is free of unnatural additives and preservatives. At Local Burger, we consider the special diet, the environment, the economy, animal welfare, and the health of everyone who eats our food. At Local Burger, you’ll always know where your food came from and exactly what’s in it.”

Music to my ears. Here’s more:

Local Burger is the brainchild of chef and entrepreneur Hilary Brown, who fulfilled her vision of offering healthy fast food in a casual environment by opening the first Local Burger on September 14, 2005.

Established in historic downtown Lawrence, Kansas, the restaurant sources all of its meats locally and features a variety of burgers, including elk, buffalo, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, and emu, and is home of the World’s Best Veggie Burger (it’s gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, yeast-free, nut-free and DELICIOUS!).

At Local Burger, Our Mission is to serve delicious food at a fair price with impeccable service while creating a culture of passion for knowing where our food comes from and how it connects us to our world, to our communities, and to ourselves.

Local Burger’s interesting, seasonal, and eclectic menu offers something for everyone, carnivores and vegetarians alike, and is super Celiac friendly. Enjoy local gluten-free hot dog and hamburger buns, hemp-milk smoothies, and vegan Caesar salads along with sensational sides like quinoa-millet pilaf and Stevia-sweetened cinnamon applesauce. Those with food intolerances and allergies will find Local Burger heaven on earth… an organic Garden of Eden!

Fast food can mean good food. Who knew? At Local Burger, we can pronounce all of our ingredients. Our food is good for you, good for the community, and good for the environment.

We support local farmers, advocate for the humane treatment of animals and workers, recycle right in the dining room, and compost our organic waste, all while serving food that tastes good and is good for you. Eat here, eat well, and enjoy.

If you appreciate quality, sustainability, and flavor, you’ll love Local Burger.
Ahhhhhhhhh…

Seriously. This may warrant a pilgrimage.

All in all, a great concept, a seemingly fantastic execution, and even terrific branding to boot. I’ll bet Local Burger even has a small army of very loyal fans.

I expect great things from this brilliant little startup over the next decade.

Please comment from the main page, not the permalink. Thanks. 😉

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So, this weekend, the family and I decide to have lunch at a local Asian fusion restaurant, and because I have a cold, I order some green tea with my meal.

As the tea arrives, I pour myself a cup and notice that a strange greasy substance is beading all across the surface. A strange… bright yellow greasy substance. Kind of like… chicken grease, only thicker and shinier. Hmmm. Weird.

I lift the filter cap off the tea pot, and notice that the tea inside the pot also has a lot of the weird yellow stuff floating around. Perplexed, I stir the pot a bit, and that’s when I realize what the yellow stuff is. There’s something floating around in the tea. A rectangular piece of paper. No, a YELLOW rectangular piece of paper. No… a yellow rectangular piece of paper with letters printed on it: CRAYOLA.

The waiter brings us our food, and politely I jokingly ask him if he can please bring me a pot of tea without a dissolved Crayola marker inside. At first, he thinks it’s a joke, but he looks inside and starts to freak out. Apologies start flying. He takes the teapot to the kitchen, and the manager gets involved. From what we can hear where our table sits, the teapot incident is now the topic of discussion in the kitchen, and the manager is NOT happy. Minutes later, the waiter emerges with a fresh pot of tea, apologizes a half dozen times, and tells us that our entire meal has been comped.

The poor kid got a good tip, and we’ll be eating there again.

I would tell you what the restaurant is, but I don’t want to give them bad publicity. The Crayola marker in the teapot thing is not the sort of thing that a restaurant wants to be known for. It’s unfortunate, because they responded to the crisis perfectly, and I would love to give them their well-deserved props.

And Crayola markers are non-toxic.

The point of this post is this: Sometimes, businesses make mistakes. How they react when these mistakes pop up is perhaps more telling about them than the fact that someone in their organization made a mistake in the first place.

This business made a mistake, but corrected it immediately. The manager enacted new mandatory tea pot inspections within minutes of the incident. The kitchen was immediately briefed. The restaurant didn’t only apologize, it also paid for our entire meal. We didn’t have to argue. We didn’t have to act angry. We didn’t have to threaten… not that we would have. I wasn’t all that bothered by the Crayola marker. I would have been happy with a fresh pot of tea and an apology. Frankly, the free meal was unnecessary… but not everyone is as laid back as yours truly.

Perhaps out of pure professionalism or out of fear that a customer could sue them or give them the kind of publicity that could gravely damage them, they didn’t try to blow it off. They didn’t try to pass the buck. They didn’t offer us a free dessert. They didn’t give us 25% OFF coupons for our next visit. They took care of the problem right away, and treated us like valued customers.

Well played.

If only more businesses did damage control and customer service as well as this restaurant, the world would be a better place.

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Recap: 2 weeks ago, Sticky Fingers dropped the ball while I was in one of their restaurants. A few days later, I blogged about it. Several days after that, I was contacted by Sticky Fingers’ local supervisor and he promised to make things right.

And by “making things right,” he didn’t mean give me 20% off my next visit or refund my meal. Nope, making things right meant earn my business again.

And did he ever.

He and his restaurant offered to cater lunch for 10 people anytime, anywhere. I took him up on it, and several days later, the Sticky Fingers folks delivered our lunch.

It was as gargantuan as it was delicious. Food for ten people? More like 30. Delicious ribs, pulled pork, BBQ chicken, slaw, beans, tea, lemonade… the whole works. The manager of the store that had dropped the ball delivered it personally and made sure I knew that the food I was eating was from his restaurant.

Rather than having SF deliver the meal at an office or at my house, I opted to have them deliver it at a client’s retail store in downtown Greenville, to give them a chance to not only win back my business, but also score some points with dozens of people. (Customers marveled at how good the food looked and smelled.)

The store shared some of the food with its customers, and gave away most of the coupons left behind by the Sticky Fingers team.

Leftovers were fought over the next day. Both the area supervisor and the restaurant manager contacted me several hours after the delivery to make sure I was happy.

The verdict: These guys scored big with the way they handled the situation. Here’s how:

1. They didn’t blow it off.
2. They didn’t make excuses.
3. They immediately offered to make it right.
4. They didn’t just settle for a token gesture. They REALLY offered to make it up to me.
5. They so completely overdelivered. The lunch they brought over was a feast. Everyone was impressed.
6. Rather than give me money back and send me on my way, they opted instead to fight tooth and nail to earn back my trust and my business.
7. By offering to cater an abundance of food, they invited at least a dozen people to the table… and that’s nothing short of brilliant. Why spend so much time and effort turning one guy into a happy customer again… when they could use this event to turn ten or twenty people into excited, happy customers as well?

Everyone who had some of their food heard the story. No one dwelled on the fact that something negative happened at one of their restaurants. What people focused on were a) how incredible the food was, and b) how unbelievably cool it was that Sticky Fingers would take such good care of its customers.

Every single person who came into contact with this free catering event walked away with a terrific story to tell about Sticky Fingers, a new appreciation for their brand, and a rekindled taste for their delicious food. (I expect at least half will be having a meal there inside of the next two weeks, myself included.)

These guys did everything right. Heck, they went so far beyond making things right that they set a whole new standard of customer service for everyone in their industry.

Or any industry, for that matter.

If I had to sum it all up in one word, it would be this: Bravo.

1000 thanks to Sticky Fingers. You guys rock.

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