In 1986, Gary and Lori Beltrani took out their last $10,000, pooled money together from friends and family, and set to Port Jefferson, Long Island to open a restaurant called The Village Way. Despite volatile markets and competition in the crowded restaurant space, The Beltrani’s owned and operated The Village Way for the next 14 years before eventually handing the baton to the next owner in-line.
The secret of their 14-year success hinged upon embodying the very spirit of the restaurant’s name. In a town as transient as Port Jefferson, especially during beautiful Long Island summers, establishing an intimate and receptive relationship with the 5,000 residents of the area became the Beltrani’s sole mission. While less concerned with tourists, who would eat anywhere, Gary and Lori were steadfast on offering high-quality food at a reasonable price with warm and friendly servers to demonstrate to the locals that they had their best interests at heart. In essence, the Beltrani’s wanted to create community where locals could feel at home and proud of the establishment, so they did it the village way.
The Beltrani’s were particularly scrupulous about the quality of their customers’ experience as the locals of Port Jefferson were always the toughest to win over. As firm believers in gathering feedback from their customers, the Village Way staff would drop 1000s of customer cards per month, run contests for the staff to see who would generate the most responses, and, through manually created Excel programs, rigorously analyze the performance of the restaurant operations and quality of customer service. While a laborious task, the Beltrani’s swore by their feedback process, spending $50-100 a month on comment card printing to ensure the Village Way remained the way of Port Jefferson’s residents.
Growing up in the Village Way, working as a dishwasher, busboy, and waiter, Alex Beltrani, the son of Gary and Lori, watched his parents exercise utmost care when fostering and nurturing the relationship between the restaurant and their customers. Through customer comment cards and table-to-table visits from restaurant GMs, he also observed the appreciation of customers to engage in a constructive and receptive way, and he saw his parents reap the benefits. Inversely, however, after feedback collection, he also watched his parents drain long hours sifting through feedback information, struggle to order revised comment card questions about different areas of operations in a timely fashion, and lose countless unfilled comment cards in the feedback process as they were discarded in the trash.
While customers and their continued engagement remain the lifeline of small business owners everywhere, technology has not yet disrupted antiquated yet invaluable processes that leave operators pulling their hair out, especially in regards to the feedback process. In 2015, Tattle intends to change that as it reimagines the customer comment card in the age of the smart phone.