A local restaurant owner and I share quite a bit in common, and it goes far beyond business and into an area that is very close to our hearts...
I have a 20 year-old son, who about 18 years ago was diagnosed with a condition called Fragile X Syndrome. Fragile X is the leading known cause of inherited mental retardation and leading known cause of autism.
We then got involved with the FRAXA Research Foundation, hosted fundraisers, and became contacts for local families with new diagnoses. This is where my restaurant owner friend and his family come into our lives. We received a call from FRAXA that a local couple just found out their son was diagnosed with Fragile X and understandably were in a bit of shock. We agreed to meet at their Italian restaurant north of Pittsburgh, and it is there where our friendship began. Both their son and ours were 3 at the time, and we found comfort in being able to do things together as families.
Their restaurant was a wonderful haven for us, as we all loved their amazing traditional Italian cuisine. Plus, in his early years, our son, Christopher, used to make some high-pitched sounds to relax himself and he was always welcome there. We were always cognizant of others so we tried to have dinner on the early side. One evening, as we ate, we heard a mimicking “eeeeee” sound coming from across the restaurant. We sort of figured it was a child having fun. Amazingly, it was a 40 something adult woman with her family making fun of our son. It wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last. Sometimes in those situations you say something and sometimes you take it quietly. That particular night, we chose the latter and ate our dinners in silence.
The woman’s mimicking did not end until they paid their bill and left. Shortly after, we asked for our bill and when our server came to the table, she said that our bill had been handled. Apparently, another couple in the restaurant observing this woman’s behavior took it upon themselves to pay our bill and leave a kind note for us, complimenting us on how we handled the challenging situation. To remain anonymous, this couple paid cash and insisted the server not tell us until they left. That was about 15 years ago, and, to this day, their incredible kindness touches my heart and brings a tear to my eye when I mentally revisit it.
Okay, now for the business side of things. Out of respect for our friendship, I never suggested we handle their gaskets until a number of years later when my friend was commenting on how expensive his compressor repair bills were. I made the suggestion that he consider replacing his worn gaskets. His comment was: “what do gaskets have to do with my compressors?” Now here is a guy who had the cleanest kitchen imaginable and was very proud of it, yet he was not aware that worn gaskets cause the compressors to overwork leading to a breakdown and expensive repairs.
A few days later our technician went out to inspect and quote their gaskets and as he was doing it, the kitchen manager made the comment that their refrigeration guy lived near the restaurant and would come to the kitchen early in the morning on his way to work and would stop in again to do some more on his way home. Remarkably, he never suggested replacing the gaskets, as the repair bills mounted.
Shortly after we replaced all of his gaskets, my friend called and commented how great his refrigeration units were running, as they were keeping perfect temperatures. I have kept my friend’s name anonymous because I don’t want to embarrass him. However, he is not alone in his thinking, as we know many restaurant people who do not put two and two together when it comes to their refrigeration repairs and gaskets.
What I love about our business is the amazingly talented and wonderful people, like my friend that we get to meet. Working with such professional and appreciative individuals makes us feel great about what we do.