How a diner reminded me about which customers matter most.

I was up pretty early last Sunday, prepping for the final day of our quarterly Inner Circle weekend.

And rather than spend my prep time in my office, I decided to head to a diner for a working breakfast with myself around 7:30 AM.

I googled “diner near Penn Station that has good waffles,” found the Tick Tock Diner, and set out to have my “Lumberjack” special and get some work done.

As you can imagine, at 7:30 on a Sunday morning the diner was pretty much empty.  There were about fifteen open booths in eyesight when I entered.  I asked for my table of one, and the hostess walked me over to a small table for 2 in a tight corner.

I was a bit disappointed with the table, as I wanted to set up my laptop without worrying about getting syrup on my touchpad.

But, I got it.  I was only one person.

Then I looked up, saw another five open tables and absolutely no line at the door, and I knew the max I would be there would be an hour.  There was no way I was going to take a table from some larger party.

So, taking a cue from one of our Inner Circle speakers the day before who said, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for,” I walked back up to the hostess and said, “May I have a booth please?”

She didn’t respond.  Then a waiter walked over and our exchange went like this . . .

“What’s the problem?”

“I was wondering if I can get a booth.”

“How many are you?”


“Booths are reserved for more than two people.”

“I understand, but I’ll be gone in an hour at most, and I see there are plenty of booths available.”

He got quiet.

“Ok, ok, she’ll show you a nice table.”

“Thank you.  I really appreciate it.”

The hostess, who still hadn’t spoken to me, started to walk away, expecting me to follow . . . which I did.

We walked around the bar, past another five open booths, and a few other open four tops . . . and then she showed me a sideways table for maybe three people, next to a pole, in a corner, jammed up against another occupied table of four.

The staff was going out of their way . . . to make me uncomfortable.

So, I said thank you . . . and left.

I walked one block to the west, saw another diner called The Skylight Diner, walked in, and the conversation with the hostess went something like this . . .

“Welcome to The Skylight.  How many are you?”


“Great.  Sit wherever you’d like.”

Swear to G.  I couldn’t have written a better response if this blog was made up.

I grabbed a booth.  I ate a Lumberjack.  And I had a wonderful experience.

And I will go back.

I understand what Tick Tock was trying to do . . . save their bigger tables for a “potential customer.”  But in thinking about the person (or in this case 100 people) that might walk through the door, they forgot about the most important person . . . the person that was already inside their store.

As Producers, Artistic Directors, or even Writers, the most important audience is the one we have.  The ones showing up.  Take care of them and they’ll reward you with loyalty and ambassadorship.

Don’t take care of them and they’ll go somewhere else.

Oh, and in the 21st century, they might also write a blog about you, telling people if they are ever in the Penn Station area and looking for a terrific breakfast, go to The Skylight Diner instead.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.