A Dam Miracle at 3:07 AM

It’s a high-end restaurant in the swanky business district of a major US city. It’s the kind of place you schedule your high-powered business lunch. It’s the kind of place you take your wife out for an anniversary dinner, or celebrate your daughter’s 16th birthday – because both of them love it, and it would be their first choice for a special dinner. It’s a place you reserve a specific time for your party on Open Table because it will be full, with a 45-minute wait, if you just show up. And today, despite your reservation, planning, and pre-date excitement…the restaurant is closed due to a plumbing back-up. The plumbing problem has been an issue since last Thursday. The Facility Manager (FM) for this exclusive chain has called out his national plumbing specialists, and although they have come out and “snaked the line” twice, they have not found the root cause of the issue, and it is now Monday afternoon and the restaurant is closing for the dinner rush…again.

The FM calls RFS.

He has several numbers in his cell phone, but this is so important he calls our founder and owner, who happens to be celebrating a milestone birthday with his wife in the islands, on vacation. In spite of these personal circumstances, he answers his phone. Of course, he answers his phone. It’s what we do at RFS. The founder jumps into action by getting the right people engaged, and as a result, the team jumps into action. Ironically, we were in the middle of our bi-monthly leadership meeting when the call came into one of our Team Leaders. At RFS the client always comes first, so we gladly take the interruption. We resume and complete our meeting, and also have a crew out there in a few hours.

We not only get the water flowing, but we find the blockage – a combination of calcium buildup from hard water, a pen, a flashlight, a couple of wine bottle openers, and other hardware that when lodged into the build-up of calcium, creates a formidable dam that would make any beaver jealous. Now, to find the dam we used a myriad of technology. Of course the dam is lodged under the slab, below the kitchen, so we busted through the tile, jack-hammered the slab, and remove the culprits. (See photo)

We then poured new concrete, placed new tile and grouted (to the restaurants specifications of course), and most importantly, completed all the work at night. Notice the 3:07 AM time stamp in the photo above.

Waiting in the FM’s inbox upon his arrival at the office is a detailed e-mail of what happened, how it was fixed and our plan to prevent this from ever happening again – which included instructions on softening the water by 50 percent to avoid damaging calcium buildup. More than likely, he saw the e-mail on his smart phone, and it was forwarded to the Director of Facilities and a myriad of Senior Management by the time all of them arrive at work. By now, this is a big deal, and everyone is involved.

There aren’t many general contractors who have the breadth of knowledge we have, can complete the broad range of work this job entails – plumbing, foundation, tile and grout, water treatment, etc.…and do it all at night when the restaurant is typically closed…but beyond that, possibly even more important than our technical competence at the job site, our collective team “gets” the pressure that the FM and the Restaurant Managing Partner are under. Not only the disappointment to the brand, and the customer experiences missed described in the opening paragraph, but also the tremendous financial pressure to perform that comes with being part of a publicly traded company that demands high performance for the shareholders.

All of this combined creates a value-added proposition that makes our entire team burst with pride…and give (metaphorical) high fives the next morning. This combination of values and behaviors is our secret sauce, and we love sharing it with all of our stakeholders.

Ron Wilhite featured in Retail & Restaurant Facility Business Industry Voices

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