Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee is packed with chain restaurants, and at best most offer a generic experience. You know what to expect so you run in, get adequate food at a reason price, with decent service. They're basically a place to fuel up for a day at Walt Disney World.
Because most customers are tourists, it's pretty rare to have anyone go out of their way for great customer service. After all, they never see the majority of their customers ever again. At worst, they pull a stunt like shaming a person right at their table for handing out a couple of coupons to other diners, like the Denny's near Old Town at 5855 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. You can read about that delightful experience in this article.
There's a rare bright spot in the dull tapestry of mediocrity, and one such standout is the Smokey Bones at 2911 Vineland Road, which is the corner of 535 and Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. They're another place that mails out coupons, so I go there because of the discounts but also because I enjoy the food. Their BBQ nachos (my dish of choice) are supposed to be an appetizer, but they're enough to feed a small army.
Normally, everything runs smoothly at the Kissimmee Smokey Bones, with no notable high or low points. I've even handed out a coupon or two to fellow diners without a manager swooping in with a vengeance to publicly berate me for it. However, one day the service happened to be uncharacteristically slow. It didn't really bother me because my party wasn't in a hurry and I could see they were crowded and short-staffed, but apparently it bothered the manager.
She came over to my table and offered a free dessert. I politely declined because I knew we didn't need any extra food. I told her I really wasn't worried about the delay, but she still seemed worried about it.
Later she returned to the table to offer the free dessert again. I started to say no, then remembered that Smoky Bones has the most wonderful freshly-made donuts that are guaranteed to put you in a coma of sugar-induced bliss. I told her I'd the donuts to go.
There was no reason to offer me a free item. The manager could simply have apologized for the delay. I hadn't complained, so there was no reason to try to appease me. She went about the call of duty simply because it's good customer service. As you can imagine, I've been back there many times, and I've shared my story with others. I know many of my readers are tourists, so if you're in the area and are looking for a place where you'll be treated with as much friendliness and respect as a local, put Smoky Bones at the top of your list.
Here are two other places that go out of their way to make people feel welcome. Click the link to read more about their great customer service: