Why the Forks Matter...and Other Lessons from FX's The Bear

Bianca Del Vecchio

I love a good TV series. Sometimes, I even get some good (and unexpected) nuggets of wisdom from my favorite characters that really hit home for me. It happened to me this past week while catching up on one my favorite shows right now, The Bear.

Episode 7 of season 2 (I know I’m a little late to the game since S2 aired over a month ago now, but “bear” with me 😉 ) really stood out to me as a customer marketer. In the episode, we follow Richie, one of the show’s main characters, on a week-long placement as a stagiaire (an intern, essentially) at Ever, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Chicago. Richie is not a professionally-trained chef and has no experience in fine dining, but in this episode, he comes to understand why restaurant owners and employees do what they do:

“How do you do this all day?” Richie asks the restaurant’s expeditor, as she calls out orders and instructions. 

She replies, “every night you make somebody's day.”

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about customer experience, I thought “Yes! That’s it!” 🙌 Our jobs may be different from the jobs at a three-star restaurant, but I think we can take some inspiration from this episode.

Here are three things that stood out to me as highly relevant to the work we do as customer marketing and advocacy practitioners::

  1. Details matter, and they’re everyone’s responsibility. 

Richie doesn’t get it at first. Why is he spending nine hours a day polishing forks? Why does it matter? Garrett, his supervisor, explains: “Do you see [customers’] faces when they walk in here? How stoked they are to see us and how stoked we have to be to serve them? [...] They get to spend their time and their money here. I'm sorry, bro, but we need to have some forks without streaks in them.” 

Later, when he encounters Head Chef Terry, she’s peeling mushrooms for a dish. Why peel mushrooms? Seems a bit extra. Well, that’s exactly it. As Terry puts it, “it's just a nice little fun detail. So when the diners see it, they know that someone spent a lot of time on their dish.” Whether you’re a head chef or a stagiaire, the smallest details matter—and everyone plays an integral role in making the guest experience what it is. And that’s why the forks matter. 

Our advocates choose to spend their most valuable resource, time, participating in our programs and sharing their experiences. It’s important to show them that you value them by taking care of the small details. That might be a handwritten thank you note for participating in a case study or a thoughtful gift when hearing good news. Whether you’re running a portfolio of programs, or you’re just starting to learn about advocacy, you have a role to play in how your customers experience your brand. 

  1. You need to know your customers deeply to deliver a personalized experience. 

In the episode, we learn that Ever has a designated staff member responsible for researching guests before they ever set foot in the restaurant. Richie sees the restaurant’s expeditor’s system in action, taking in the color-coding that indicates critical information about guests, like dietary restrictions, whether someone is coming in from out of town, or how fast—or slow—a table likes to receive their meals. We have our systems, too, for keeping track of our customers—when you have that information on hand, you’re able to deliver personalized experiences. 

Knowing your customers, their motivations, and what they care about provides you with opportunities to show them you care. Ever knew they had two local high school teachers on the guest list whose dream was to dine at a three-Michelin-star restaurant; according to Instagram, they’d been saving up for this experience. Knowing this, the restaurant can pull out all the stops. Before opening, the manager addresses the staff and says, “I wanna go above and beyond tonight. Every supplement and caviar, please. A tour of the kitchen, a champagne tour in the gallery as well. And, guys, we're not gonna let these people spend a dollar. Do not drop a check.” What an amazing opportunity to create an unforgettable experience for their guests. And it’s easy to imagine them sharing this story for a long, long time.

  1. Always be listening and always be ready to act in the moment.

If you listen to your customers, you just might spot an opportunity to create a moment-in-time experience that you know is going to make an impact… but you have to act fast! In the episode, one of the waiters overhears a guest mention they won’t have time to try deep-dish pizza before leaving Chicago. The staff’s response? I thought they were going to make a deep-dish pizza… but instead, we see Richie personally picking up a fresh pizza from local favorite Pequod's Pizza, because Ever knows to rely on the experts. Richie hands the pizza over to the Ever chef who turns it into a one-of-a-kind artistic creation, including, as Richie says, “micro basil, f*** yes!” 

Richie presents the guests with the deep-dish creation, and says, “I couldn't live with myself if I let this beautiful family leave Chicago without sampling one of my personal favorite dishes.” Richie gets to share the moment and witness the guests’ amazed reaction—“You did not hear me say that!”

You can’t really plan for these impromptu moments, but by listening to your customers, you’ll recognize when it’s time to take action. Be real and have fun with it!

At the end of the episode, Head Chef Terry tells Richie that he’s good with people; in an earlier episode, Richie also said he was good with people, but that he needed to find an outlet for that skill. It’s a trait a lot of customer marketers have, too—it’s just as important as being data-driven. You might have a great product and a great program stocked with rewards—but you can’t ever forget to make your customers feel seen. So whether you’re running a three-star restaurant or striving for a five-star customer review, it’s all about the experience. 

(P.S. I still have three episodes left, no spoilers please!)