According to Wikipedia, a lahmacun is “a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (most commonly beef and lamb) and minced vegetables and herbs including onions, tomatoes and parsley, then baked.” It’s quite tasty. Although I’ve been living for more than 40 years at the gates of the Orient, in Bucharest, that is, I was never exposed to this dish before. Last year, a friend from the tango community introduced me to it.
Since then, I eat lahmacun every few days. It’s not as heavy as kebab or shawerma (which, to be honest, are kind of “emergency” food for me, I only touch them if I really have no other choice). And it’s quite nutritious too.
A few months ago, a new eatery opened in my neighborhood. It’s called “Calif” and, as the name implies, serves mainly oriental food. It’s just a wagon-like thin space, with 4 tables. Not very roomy. I think that’s the reason I didn’t want to try it initially. But then one evening I came home pretty late and the only opened eatery was Calif. That’s how I found out that they’re opened non-stop too.
I tried a lahmacun and I liked it. I also discovered the place was clean and neat, the cookies were fast and polite and you also get a cup of black tea on the house. Nice experience. I repeated it the next day.
In a few weeks I found myself looking for that place even if I was pretty far away from it. For instance, once I walked 4 km just to have my lunch there, although I had plenty of other options in the mall where I spend most of my time (not in the actual mall, but in a Starbucks from that mall). They really make a very good lahmacun and I started to find the space cosy and welcoming.
A week ago I entered Calif around noon, thinking at my lahmacun and my tea. It was a line. Maybe 4 or 5 persons. The girl at the counter seemed a little bit overwhelmed. When my turn came, I asked for a lahmacun, took my receipt and then went to the only free table. Sat down, took my phone and started to browse around.
After 10 minutes, the place was still crowded. And no sign about my lahmacun. Usually, it takes only 5-6 minutes. It’s crowded, I said, maybe it will take longer. And went back to my phone. After 10 more minutes, the place was a bit clearer, but still, no sign about my lahmacun. Hmm, maybe they’re overloaded, I said, and went back to my phone.
But after half an hour a distinct sensation of hunger made me leave my phone on the table, go to the counter and ask the confused lady about my order. Surprise: they forgot about it. Just like that. The lady apologized, asked the cooks to prepare the lahmacun and I went back to my table.
To my surprise, after 5 minutes, a tray with a lahmacun and a rice pudding was put on my table by a tall guy who introduced himself as the manager of the place. “We’re very sorry for this, sir, and we’d like to offer you a free pudding rice, on the house.” I smiled, answered that it’s ok and tried the pudding rice. It was also good.
I ate my lahmacun and went home.
The Recurring Business
The next day, I asked again for a lahmacun and this time the order was executed flawlessly. After I finished it, as I was walking out from the place, the two cooks behind the counter apologized again for yesterday. “It’s ok, I answered”.
As I was going back to my Starbucks, to continue to work, I realized that every problem is an opportunity. It’s up to you how you treat it. If the manager would have ignored the problem, I’m sure I would have started to ignore the place. It wasn’t a very big problem, but still, it made me lose 30 minutes of my life.
Things will always go wrong at some point. It may be negligence, it may be bad luck, it may be anything. At some point, something will break up. Trying to prevent this is much more expensive than to manage it when it happens.
It happens in business more than in any other area. At some point, a process will be broken and you, as the owner or the manager of that business, will have to step in. You’ll have to acknowledge the flaw, fix it and move on.
Few entrepreneurs know the power of this approach. It may cost you a bit of your ego, a bit of your proud, some extra stuff that you’ll offer for free to the unhappy client (like my excellent rice pudding) but the end result will be – literally – mind blowing. Because that’s how recurring businesses are born.
Your clients will come over and over to buy from you not because you’re perfect, but because you are able to fix things when they go wrong. They’ll come over and over not because your marketing will project an image of success, but because they. as human beings, know what it takes to admit a mistake, to move forward and to show that you actually care.
In the end, recurring business is about people constantly caring about other people.
And, to be honest, that’s how I eventually discovered Calif’s great lentil soup.