This past Saturday, the owner of a local Pizza Pizza franchise that we regularly visit at 833 Upper James (near Mohawk), invited Alexander to come behind the counter and make his own pizza.
Prior to this delightful event, the owner, Ismet, explained to me that he has been doing this for several decades and has a photo album of the various children who have learned the joy and wonder of professional pizza making in his kitchens. Some of whom have gone on to work with him when they grew up.
After a quick tour where Ismet showed us where the dough and ingredients were kept, he and Alexander proceeded to make two small pizza's -- Ismet made one with Alexander and then watched over while Alexander made the second one completely without any help. (The only parts Alexander wasn't able to do were placing the pizzas in the oven and cutting the slices)
The very first step was a lesson in proper hand-washing. (Alexander was delighted that this is a task he is intimately familiar with)
After rolling the dough, they moved onto the spreading of sauce.
Then, a nice layer of cheese.
Don't forget the bacon.
Now, into the oven.
And then eagerly await the finished pizza. (Look at that delighted smile)
And voila. Two beautiful pizza's.
Not only was this an exciting and memorable event for Alexander, but it was also very informative and educational for all of us. We got to learn a few of the tricks that professional pizza makers use when creating their masterpieces as well as little things that you don't think about but are critical in the food service business, like the half dozen different coloured handle pizza cutters that are used for cutting different types of pizza (ie, vegetarian, meat, etc) to prevent cross-contamination for both sanitary and religion reasons.
But this isn't just a cute story of a five year old getting to learn the process of pizza making from a professional.
It's an example of a big-hearted local business owner who went out of his way to make the day of three customers.
I am currently reading Mitch Joel's book SIX PIXELS OF SEPARATION. And while the book is about integrating digital marketing, social media and personal branding into entrepreneurial activities, Mitch regularly comes back to and focuses on the humanity behind it and the in-person touch-points that can result. Ironically, in this great book about the harnessing of the digital environment, it's really all about connecting with people.
And that's what Ismet is doing. He is focusing effort and energy on connecting with people in his community. He didn't have to take the time to share information and skills with a five year old. No, he did it out of kindness and a desire to make someone's day, to give them a cherished experience. (Interestingly, it not only speaks to what Mitch Joel regularly brings it all back to in his wonderful new book, about it being about the connection between people, but it also ties in nicely with the FISH philosophy inspired by the Pike Place Fish Market which includes: Play, Make Their Day, Be There and Choose Your Attitude.)
And one side-effect of this personal touch he added to our lives is the loyalty that he now has now secured in three of his customers.
The next time we decide we're going to get pizza for lunch or dinner, or someone asks us to recommend a local pizza place, where do you think will be top on our minds? The faceless owner of whoever has the best television or radio ad? Or the friendly and neighbourly owner of a local franchise who took the time one afternoon to personally connect with some customers and create a memorable experience?