John Milgram is the CEO of Aexcel Corporation, a company that manufactures premier traffic paint. He’s also a member of Vistage and that experience has made him an expert in observing and adapting successful strategies and best practices into his own business. But what you may not know about John is that he’s also an avid foodie.

John has taken his foodie experience and created a set of rules that he wanted to share with restaurant owners. There’s no reason why we can’t take his advice for restaurants and turn it into marketing advice for CEOs.

I’m giving you the rules straight-up and I’d love to hear your feedback either on restaurant rules or how you’d apply this list to your own business.

Rules for Restaurants?(or at least those who serve).


  • Clean. Windows, plates, napkins, menus, floors, tables, bathrooms, everything.
  • Hot food hot, cold food cold.
  • Glasses always full; ditto bread basket. (Hot bread is nice.)
  • Fresh silverware between courses.
  • If you have funny rules, make sure they are crystal clear to all at the start. Be polite but precise. And no jargon.
  • The customer is not your friend. Stay out of their space. Don’t sit, never kneel, unless there’s a child. We don’t need your name; it should be on your shirt.
  • No: “Is everything okay?”? Yes: Be available for them to tell you it’s not.
  • Never kill the customer’s buzz. If a customer annoys you, tough it out, or hand off the table. See the next rule . . .
  • An unhappy customer is not usually looking for a fight, so don’t bring them one. Just do your best to make them calm, if not happy. Some people will never be happy, but they don’t need to be made mad. See the next rule . . .
  • Food is cheap; reputation is not. A $20 piece of steak is not worth a fight in the day of the internet. See the next rule . . .
  • A complimentary glass of wine or appetizer or coffee can offset a slow kitchen or a difficult service issue.
  • But above all – Pay attention. Watch customer body language, watch for signals, and ALWAYS BE DISCRETE.

Everything about these rules is about the customer experience. Over the last couple of years, there have been studies that have shown that experiences make us happier than material possessions. So whether you’re providing a product or a service, remember that you’re delivering an experience.