Owning and Extending the Customer Experience with Cheryl’s On 12th

Posted on: April 26th, 2016 by Lonnie Mayne

Evidence of an On-Site Owner A word of advice: Never pass up the opportunity to experience something done right—especially where food is involved. There is a lot to be learned from the things that get people buzzing—and one place that has been buzzing in my hometown of Portland, Oregon is a restaurant called Cheryl’s On 12th.

The owners of Cheryl’s on 12th are Ed and Cheryl Casey. Their résumés are packed with the full range of relevant skills, from server and mixologist to VP of operations and owner/operator of 23 franchise locations. And while their experience is noteworthy, it’s just one ingredient that makes them special.

I traveled back to the City of Roses a few weeks back to visit one of our flagship clients and took a group with me for brunch and a little customer experience “research.” What we found there was definitely buzzworthy and showcased a few lessons that can help anyone interested in creating better experiences for customers—or really anyone.

  • Lesson #1: Extend Your Experience Outside the Box

    Before I even got my party through the front door, I was met on the sidewalk by an experience that spilled welcomingly outside. While people waited to be seated, they didn’t have to wait to be served, because Cheryl’s was already providing complimentary coffee. Cheryl and Ed understand their “customer experience” is larger than what happens inside their four walls, and they embrace it to great effect. This principle can be applied in many ways to any business model—so I invite you to rethink the furthest reaches of your experience and extend them further where it makes sense.

  • Lesson #2: Spread Importance through Ownership

    Back to the owners. Once we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by a man who asked my name, quoted me a wait time, and then moved along through the hopping restaurant. After 10 minutes had passed, I caught the man to double-check that we had made it on the list. He said, “Yeah. Lonnie, right?” Given the crowds coming and going, I was very impressed. That was enough for me to take my “research” online.

    Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed. When the man came to seat us, I said, “You’re one of the owners, aren’t you.” To which I was answered with a “Yep.” Isn’t it funny how quickly and simply an owner who cares can be identified? The clues can be so seemingly insignificant, but they communicated loudly that this person is invested. They communicate that this place—and my experience in it—are important to him.

    This whole customer experience thing we’re involved in is also about empowering employees at all levels to give them the confidence, autonomy, and investedness that accurately reflects that vital vibe of ownership. There is a lot that goes into it, and it is probably never done to perfection, but having an owner on-site, leading out front, showing an example definitely rubs off—both on employees and guests. It was apparent in the service and product I received during the remainder of our meal.

  • Lesson #3: Expectation Set and Sustained

    This lesson combines elements of the first two. With the greeting of the experience immediately hitting high notes, this place had to be ready to deliver. They knowingly set the bar high with every confidence that, as a team, they could carry it through. (The jump from complimentary coffee to free beignets was an excellent, and delicious, touch.) When you’ve got the experience covered (from extended end to extended end) and an ownership mentality in house, I sense it’s easy to be confident in delivering on your own lofty expectations.


For those of you wondering, I ordered the Portuguese Fried Rice, and it was fantastic in every way. It’s a variation of a dish my mother makes, and this one compared favorably.

The Wild Arena We Simply Call
“Our Day”

Posted on: January 11th, 2016 by Lonnie Mayne

300 pounds of man wrapped in wrestling spandex from the waist down

There is one moment in my childhood that I return to as often as possible—and I bring anyone who will come with me.

Squaring Up to the Moment
In a mid ’70s locker room, I stand with my father—nearly 300 pounds of man wrapped in wrestling spandex from the waist down. His broad bare torso topped by the head of a gentle yeti. He reaches down, puts his big hand around mine, and squares our shoulders up to the moment. Hand in hand we walk toward two closed doors. Light and noise pour through the cracks, carrying the energy of a sold-out stadium to my little heart. We take our unevenly matched steps until we are standing just a few feet away from the thin, movable barriers.

“The Ballad of Moondog Mayne” rushes out of the loudspeakers. That’s my dad’s cue. He squeezes my hand, let’s it go, tells me to stay with the two men standing at our side. He shakes out his muscles and nerves—even his dispensable ties to reality—in one powerful motion. Then he flips the switch, becoming the larger-than-life alter ego he’s paid to pilot, just before the doors open. Out he steps into a glorious, riotous, magical, real-life fiction—while I am guided briskly down another hallway.

On the other side of those doors, men and women hang over railings, holding signs, shouting words, shaking fists, smiling, gesturing, and, most of all, believing. They believe the man who was holding my hand a minute earlier is Moondog Mayne: a heel, a loose cannon, a wildman, a professional wrestler.

In reality, he is a family man, an entertainer, a kind heart, a hero.

That moment, shared firsthand with my father, is not without my mother’s unforgettable influence as well. Even now, I can feel her concern and love and pure motherly interest penetrating the sweaty, macho, powder keg of an atmosphere that brewed beyond those doors.

In that moment I have the love of two parents—and a view into a world that most only see the half of. Energy and emotion hit me from all sides. I want to remain by my dad’s side as he steps through those doors and the adrenaline spikes. I want to feel the intense support of a stadium’s worth of people. I want to be involved in an event with an outcome everyone is hopelessly interested in.

I want to feel my own little actions directing the flow of a city’s emotions, the same way my father’s entry, his ringside manner, and his very words could burst clouds and send cheers and howls raining into the ring.

Stepping Out
My entire life I have been trying to walk through those doors—to emerge from the place of preparation and put my energy into actions that can steer the hearts of people. Since that moment, I have envisioned taking my place in the ring to create an experience worth such a generous investment of emotional capital.

Physically, I will never see those doors again, but, symbolically, they’re hanging on my door frame at home. Thinly, they separate me and my family from the wild arena we simply call “our day.” Its glow, its sounds, and its believing crowds of people await us outside. Every morning we wake up and prepare for it. We fill our minds and hearts with as much readiness as we can muster before “The Ballad of Moondog Mayne” plays—and it’s time to step out.

The patterns we keep, the commutes we drive, the responsibilities we oversee, and the people we work with so consistently (especially them) provide the audience, the counterparts, the “faces,” the “heels,” the storylines, the props, and every opportunity we need to create an experience worth believing in.

This is where we envy no one. Even the rock stars, poets, entertainers, and athletes—who spend their days swimming in emotions, publicity, and glory—have nothing we don’t.

When the Spectacle Impacts the Professional

Posted on: December 4th, 2015 by Lonnie Mayne

Matthew Jacobson of The Spectrum and Daily News just produced a story that’s running on the USA Today network. The article spotlights some larger-than-life pieces of my childhood and shares the Red Shoes message.

I’ll never forget the lessons I learned from my wonderful dad, and I hope, in reading this story, you will find inspiration and application from even the wildest or simplest experiences of your own life and relationships.

Read “From the Ring to the Real World”

Why the Hell Not?

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Lonnie Mayne

Hey. I’ve been away for awhile, but man I’m ready to be back. To everyone who has voiced a desire to see more Red Shoes Living on this site, “Thank you.” The need for inspiration is incredibly constant; I know it’s something I need daily.

Of all the positive examples in my life, I specifically have my daughter, McKenzie, to thank for inspiring me to get back on here. I recently joined her little family for dinner, and a message she had written on her chalkboard instantly brought a stack of thoughts to my mind. On top of that stack was “getting back on the Red Shoes site.” (Just underneath it was “eating chocolate for breakfast.”)

Each and every thought followed the same pattern: something that I would love to do but just… can’t. Why? Well, that’s the wrong question. Look at McKenzie’s chalkboard with me and see if your own list doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

Why the Hell Not?Why the Hell Not?

She and I had a good conversation that night, and I asked her to send me the story behind the message so I could share it. This is what she told me:

New Mother MI try to keep our home a place of daily inspiration, motivation, and somewhere we can feel grounded. Placing quotes around our house is any easy way to give us simple reminders of positivity and encouragement. Our kitchen chalkboard is the last thing we see as we leave every day, so I try to put things on there to give us a last boost of motivation as we go to conquer our day.

Home Is DishesAt this time, I was drawn to this particular quote because I feel like, by nature, we are surrounded by information telling us that we can’t do certain things. Limits are set by the people we work for, people we love, people we don’t know, and society as a whole. As a new mother, I have found myself focusing too much energy on the things I am no longer able to do, or perhaps the things I don’t think I can now accomplish as a full-time mom.

New Mother 2It’s been a slight identity crisis. But as I start questioning why in fact “I can’t” do those things, I realize that I indeed can do anything I want. These limits we set, in reality, are non-existent, invisible insecurities that virtually have no meaning when we challenge them. It is so simple to shift the narrative from what we can’t do to what we can. Once you start, the possibilities really become endless.

I couldn’t agree more. For me, there’s simply no reason good enough for me to not be here. There’s no answer good enough to that powerful question.

I’m so glad I still see so many people living with this question in their hearts. I spend a lot of time with one such person: My CEO at InMoment, John Sperry. He’s a man who still believes he can fly. He still believes in the unknown, the untried, the unexplored, the possible impossible. It’s amazing how much new and exciting he finds in a world that thinks it’s all been done.

Today I’m joining him, I’m joining you, I’m joining McKenzie and many others in doing the same. Why the hell not?

“A Spirited Race Every Day”:
Customer Is Key to Omnichannel Strategy

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

I wanted to introduce this article co-featuring VP of Customer Experience at Express Jim Kaniaris and me, but the article has a nice introduction in place already:

“During his presentation, ‘Express on the Role of Customers in the Omni-Channel Strategy,’ presented at the Loyalty360 Engagement & Experience Expo held this week in Dallas, Jim Kaniaris, Vice President of Customer Experience at Express, and Lonnie Mayne, President of InMoment, discussed how the Express customer helps inform Express’s omni-channel strategy and focus on customer engagement and brand loyalty. And it boils down to one thing: A pair of red shoes.”

Check out the full article here. Or click the photo below.

Follow RedShoesLiving on Instagram

Posted on: June 22nd, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

I’m taking the message of red shoes to the small square screen of Instagram.

Follow RedShoesLiving to add a friendly face, a new perspective, and good experiences to your feed. Use #RedShoesLiving to contribute your own thoughts and photos to the conversation.

See you on the standout side of social media!

Red Shoes Pillar #3: Stories

Posted on: April 22nd, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

This article first appeared in the opinion section of Aftermarket News
on April 11, 2014.

It was originally written as a guest commentary by Lonnie Mayne.

Photo taken by Flickr user Garry Knight

Everyone Has a Story

Every last person out there has their signature features—visible clues that tease out their story. It could be a glaring flaw or a glowing trait: a tendency to talk too fast, a flair for the dramatic, a hard time getting out of bed, an appreciation for birds, an addiction to texting, a love for baseball, even a broken finger that never healed right.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s negative, positive, or neutral—what matters is that it’s there and it outwardly marks their experience.


Entrepreneur Article: Evolve or Die in the Age of the Customer

Posted on: April 18th, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

Entrepreneur was recently kind enough to lend me their Webspace for sharing some thoughts on business and customer experience in today’s market.

I’ve been around long enough to see a pretty significant and cool change take root in the way business is done. And while I cherish the learning I did long ago in an environment rather dissimilar to today’s, I love reimaging those formative scenarios in the advanced confines of the modern market.

That’s the approach I’ve taken for examining the “Age of the Customer,” Big Data, and the importance of evolution in my article “Evolve or Die in the Age of the Customer.” Check it out by clicking the link(s).

Don’t Hide Behind the Rules

Posted on: April 9th, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

John Jordan’s red shoes on the Potomac River, with the Kennedy Center in the background.

I just received a wonderful message from a man who appreciates the power of putting yourself out there. And what’s more “out there” than risking a slap on the hand (or worse) to help out a customer?

Read below for a couple great examples of Red Shoes service as experienced by John Jordan, SVP Customer Experience & Chief Customer Officer at Total Wine & More:

I recently learned about the “Red Shoes” experience, and it resonated with me for many reasons, but mostly due to its irreverence and desire to recognize great service. Great service is often the result of a small gesture—one that shows that kindness and humanity can override process, which sometimes causes “the rules” to be broken to satisfy a customer’s needs.

Now, I’m not suggesting that rules which violate laws should be part of a great service plan—serving customers well involves staying within clear boundaries of certain unbreakable rules, but practicing discretion and using good judgment to do what is right is key. There are many great quotes by great people on how it is not only o.k. to break rules, but rule breaking is to be expected.

One of my favorite quotations is from General Douglas MacArthur, who is attributed with: “Rules are mostly made to be broken, and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

Last Saturday, on the first real day of spring here in the greater Washington, D.C. area, I had two great service experiences where the rules were broken to take care of the customer.

The first was a rushed trip to the local bank to deposit a check and get cash back for a flea-market shopping trip in Georgetown that afternoon. To complicate matters, my ATM card is lost! I realized halfway to the bank that I’d left the house without my driver’s license, but that turning back would cause me to get to the bank just in time for closing. So, I pressed on hoping I’d recognize someone at the bank who could help. Long story short, I recognized no one, but with some appropriate questioning by the teller, I was able to deposit the check and get my much-needed cash back for weekend shopping. These days, getting anything done at a bank without proper identification can be impossible, but the manager and teller practiced common-sense, and I’m a more loyal customer as a result.

Then later that day with my 16 year-old daughter in tow, I wanted to watch the defending Louisville Cardinals in a NCAA game, and I was dismissed by establishment #1 due to “house rules.” So, in dismay, went to the next bar/restaurant. The bartender there said simply, “It is not busy; we’re happy to have you & your daughter sit at the bar, but please know that at night we normally can’t allow underage patrons at the bar.” Not only was great service rendered, but expectations were set so that I’d not expect that rule-break at all times of day.

Both of these service providers deserved red shoes, as they put the customer ahead of rules, and caused me to tell others about the experience.

At Total Wine & More, there are rules we must enforce. Indeed, “Rule #1” for the whole company is to NEVER serve anyone who is under the age of 21. That rule is law, and compliance is 100%. But, rule #2 is to do whatever it takes to make all customers very satisfied. That is where doing what is right for the customer (Age 21 or older) can and does cause some rule bending.

So, hats off to the Red Shoe experience. Thanks for giving me a new way to recognize the many great people who I encounter in daily life, and for the great staff we have at over 100 Total Wine & More stores across the country!

There really are rules, some explicitly stated and some simply implied, that shouldn’t be heeded when they stand in the way of doing something good. I believe this. Red Shoes Pillar #5 is “Putting Yourself Out There,” and it’s all about making a decision and taking an action that is difficult, uncomfortable, taboo, or frowned upon, because circumstances have made it the right thing to do.

Thanks, John, for sharing!

Eyewitness Account of a
Lifesaver Named Shayne

Posted on: April 4th, 2014 by Lonnie Mayne

Earlier this year, my close associate Ken Myres, president of Romacorp, shared a customer comment with me that came out of the Palm Desert, California location of Tony Roma’s.

It had “Red Shoes” written all over it.

I want to take some time to share it along with the powerful follow-up from Ken’s team, because, at every interaction, I see a prime example of how simple and infectious a Red Shoes Experience is.

The Comment

Tony Roma’s Restaurant, (Palm Desert, CA) 11/22/2013

I’m writing you regarding our visit to your restaurant the evening before last. We visit your restaurant quite frequently and always request our favorite server, Shayne. She is an absolute joy and always knows how to put a smile on our faces. She is friendly, genuine and professional. She anticipates our every need, sometimes before we realize we even need it.

Shayne has a way of making you feel as though you are dining in her home. We eat out nearly every meal and dine at many, many restaurants. There are a lot of very nice, professional servers that do a great job, but there is a difference with Shayne. She TRULY CARES! I’m sure I’m not the first guest to say just how wonderful she is.

Anyway, I could go on and on about her forever, but the reason for this letter is regarding our visit last evening 11/22/2013. Again she surprised us! As we were dining, a gentleman near us was choking on his meal. The wife and another gentleman were trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver for some time with no success. Shayne quickly and calmly walked up and did the Heimlich with NO PROBLEM. It was as though she did this every day. It was a side of her we have never known and, as always, we were very impressed.

Unlike many employees and others standing around, Shayne took charge and knew exactly how to handle the situation with grace and respect for the guest. I truly hope you and your staff realize and acknowledge what a true RARE GEM you have. You hit the JACKPOT when you hired her. See you soon.

The Recognition


Being the CX champion he is, once Ken heard about this act of heroism committed by a Tony Roma’s employee, he started arranging proper recognition for her. While he was ready to line up a city proclamation and a visit with the mayor and police chief, Shayne insisted she was just doing her job and that a nice lunch would be plenty of recognition.

On January 13, Ken joined Tony Roma’s team members Chris Castellana, Mike Malik, and Synthia & Bobbie Brinkerhoff at a special lunch with guest of honor Shayne Cornish.

Ken and Chris also visited Shayne at the Palm Desert Tony Roma’s to present her with a much deserved pair of red shoes in front of her management team, coworkers, and lunch guests.

The “Thank You” Note

This might be my favorite part. It sounds funny to say, since her service and actions were obviously profoundly important, but seeing her own words of gratitude in her own handwriting really shows me how much she she lives up to her reputation.