A couple months back I met a colleague over Saturday breakfast at one of those rinky-dink, hole-in-the-wall diners that seem to come standard in the “old town” part of every city.

Upon arrival to Joe’s Café, my coworker was greeted by Joe with a big hug and a loud (and I mean really loud), “Back already?! I thought you were still on vacation! I’ll get your biscuits and eggs done up just the way you like ‘em!”

I was met with a smile, a firm handshake, a joke about my shirt choice (which was fair, not my best purchase decision), and a, “You look like you could use a big ol’ plate of biscuits and gravy and a side of my world-famous grits.”

“Thanks Joe, but I’m not sure if I’d like grits. I’ve never had them befo—“

“Well, today is your lucky day, cause you’re about to try the world’s best grits!”

“World’s best? That’s quite the claim. How do you know they are the #1 grits?”

“Because everyone who has them says to me… they say ‘Joe, these are the best grits in the whole wide world!’ ”

Fair enough.

I never saw the menu and didn’t hear the daily specials. My colleague and I made zero progress on our work, and I was okay with that. Because we spent an hour laughing with the cooks, customers, and Joe. I left Joe’s Café unreasonably full and eager to tell everyone I knew about a breakfast I’ll never forget – and I wasn’t alone. When reading the café’s reviews this is what you’ll see:

  • “Cannot go wrong here. Grits Grits Grits. Joe knows food and people. You can walk in here grumpy and hungry and I promise you will leave full and smiling.”
  • “Great service. Loved the vibe when I got inside. Joe is an amazing person. He is so full of life. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have delicious grits. Won’t ever forget the experience.”
  • Joe’s is such a great experience! The food is great, but you go there for Joe. He’ll make sure you have a great time and are well fed. Make sure you order his grits.”

I learned 3 things from my breakfast:

  1. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for Joe’s Café to advertise as “a place to have productive work meetings.”
  2. Turns out, I do like grits after all.
  3. Joe isn’t in the “restaurant” business; Joe is in the “connecting with people” business.

There isn’t much on the Joe’s Café webpage apart from directions and a phone number. But what it does have is a headline that reads “Eat with Joe. Make your meals personable.” The restaurant is covered wall to wall with polaroids of the regulars. If you check the “Joe’s Café” Instagram, you won’t see a picture of biscuits, watermelon lemonade, or world-famous grits. But what you will see is 2,323 pictures of Joe posing with groups of happy customers.

Joe turned a side of grits into an experience by connecting with people.

Like Joe, we’re all in the “connecting with people” business. Once you stop looking for ways to sell to customers and start focusing on how to connect with people, something magic happens. Your business-to-customer relationships transform into people-to-people relationships. Your customers come for the offer and come back for the experience.

Joe’s Café’s ways aren’t for everybody, and they probably wouldn’t work for your business. But for his customers, they’re the reason they keep coming back. When interacting with your customers, ask yourself, “How can I turn this connection into a connection that matters?”

P.S. You should try Joe’s Café in Orem, Utah — they have the best grits in the whole wide world.