Last week my father underwent the nerve-racking process of submitting himself to his semiannual PET scan. A cancer survivor in remission for almost three years, he understandably approaches each one of these scrutinizing exams with some trepidation. If ever there was a comprehensive scan capable of detecting cancer, or some other abnormality anywhere in the body, it’s this one — and while he certainly would want to know immediately if something were wrong… if, God forbid, he relapsed, the ominous possibility of hearing that type of diagnosis justifiably makes the entire process… unnerving to say the least.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long for the results.
Just a couple of days after the scan, my brothers and I received a text message from my father with a picture of a succulent medium-rare filet mignon and vegetables topped with a delicate apricot demi-glace… Typical. The caption below the picture simply read, “Celebrating. Guess where…” That was all we needed to know that everything was okay.
The purpose of this story, however, isn’t simply to let you know that my father continues to do well. It’s not, as I have written in the past, about the importance of succession planning — particularly in a family business, as my father is also my partner and the CEO of our company. It’s not even about the way he and my mom celebrate the best news they can possibly get twice a year. It’s about where they go to celebrate, and who they choose to celebrate with. It’s about his simple text message: “Guess where…” That’s because every six months since my father’s surgery, after getting a clean bill of health from his doctors, they don’t just go out to dinner, they go to a restaurant appropriately named Secreto to get spoiled.
When owners Luis Buitron and Dover Contreras opened their doors in January of 2009, they were struggling to get their fine-dining restaurant off the ground – especially in such an unlikely location — a strip mall on the southeast corner of North Kendall Drive and SW 117th Avenue in Miami-Dade County. The restaurant was just a few blocks from our office, and my father and I were one of the first patrons to eat at Secreto for lunch the week it opened.
At the time nobody even knew that Secreto existed and every time that we would go, day or night, we were usually the only ones eating in an otherwise empty restaurant. But the food always surpassed our greatest expectations, and the service… well, we simply never had better service anywhere, so we decided to do what we could to help Luis and Dover out by spreading the word and frequenting Secreto — often as many as three and four times per week.
That was then…
Today, I recommend you make a reservation to avoid waiting for over an hour for a table. Luis and Dover deserve all the credit for turning their restaurant into a phenomenal success, but they’re also responsible for turning Secreto into something more. You see, they are the ones that my mom and dad choose to celebrate the good news with after every PET scan.
Why? Because during the time my father was sick and unable to leave the house, much less go out to eat at his favorite restaurant, Luis and Dover would always ask me about him and how he was doing. They would always assure me of their thoughts and prayers for his recovery, and I would never leave the restaurant without a very meaningful and very personal gift from them to him: A large bowl of his favorite soup that I was to deliver right away in the hopes that it would make him feel somewhat better in the midst of his chemo and radiation therapy.
My father has never forgotten those gestures from the owners of Secreto.
You and I may not own a restaurant, but we have the same opportunity to connect with our customers at this level every day — regardless of the industry we may be in. Consumers today navigate in a sea of your competitors just looking for something that will set one company apart from the other. Here’s the question: Is your business the one that they will come back to when it counts?
In some ways the soup, and the love with which Luis and Dover prepared and offered it, did help my father, which is why today, he still enjoys it — albeit as an appetizer before a medium-rare filet mignon — only this time he’s not enjoying it alone from home, but with Luis and Dover inside their thriving restaurant.