Will There Be Anything Else?
Before joining the family at Rocket Pop, I spent almost 40 years in the restaurant business…
I know: That makes me really old.
I started just shy of 16, washing dishes at Sir Walter Raleigh Inn in Wheaton, Maryland. “The Finest in Beef & Seafood”. I worked my way through the kitchen, bussed tables, and eventually became a waiter. At first, I wasn’t very good. Multi-tasking a grill full of steaks is a different beast from having four or five tables at various stages of service.
I was an order taker.
But I knew the restaurant and menu back-to-front, and soon found my groove. I quickly learned that the key to success, both professionally and personally, was check average. Part of my longevity in the business was my curiosity about human behavior. I got off on making people do things.
If I needed the table, I could make a party hurry up.
If I was in the weeds, I could make them slow down.
Best of all, I could make them buy things. I could get them to order items that they didn’t know that they wanted.
Over the course of a service, at least one person at a random table would look at me and ask some variation of “What do you recommend?”
I learned not to hesitate.
“I recommend that you start with the stuffed mushrooms. Full button mushrooms stuffed with fresh Chesapeake crab meat, drizzled with some dry sherry, and topped with shaved parmesan. Lightly baked, and a great starter. After the mushrooms, a Caesar Salad. The chef goes a bit heavy on the lemon, but it offers a great, tart palate cleanser. For your main course, the Petit Filet. Not too heavy, and best served medium-rare. You have your choice of sides, but the wild rice is best. The perfect wine would be the Mouton-Cadet cabernet. We make our own chocolate mousse, so that would be your dessert.”
It’s amazing how many of those I sold (and equally amazing that I remember that spiel).
Perhaps the best part of working in a restaurant was the relationships that I built. Sure, I developed some great friendships, and it’s no secret that restaurants are a hotbed of romantic intrigue, but no matter what I needed or wanted, I knew a guy. It was a bit like a mafia story.
If I wanted to go to the Outer Banks, I knew a regular with a condo. If I needed tires for my car, I knew a waitress with a boyfriend at an auto shop. One of my co-workers made beautiful furniture, and I helped him sell a lot of pieces over the years.
All of which brings me to Rocket Pop.
People know us for making great videos. We have a reputation for building eye-catching websites. Our customers trust us to turn difficult projects around on short notice.
And we’re often able to leverage our skills and relationships for our clients.
A few years ago, we were working with RVATech. That’s the Richmond Technology Council, a nonprofit that promotes Richmond’s tech community. Their executive director had seen one of his sister organizations putting on a “Battle of the Tech Bands,” and wanted to start a similar annual event here. It would be part professional mixer, part technology showcase, and part just fun. “RVATechJam”.
Scott Dickens – my mean boss – heard ‘bands’ and jumped into action. Scott and I met over live music. I used to do sound for his band, and he later recruited me to play bass in our current band, Strummer. We’re currently a trio (with our friend Rebecca on banjo), but have had as many as seven people on a stage. In addition to an impressive collection of guitars, Scott has a full P.A. setup. Our friend from RVATech would solicit bands with technologists from the likes of Capital One, CarMax, Altria, and we would run sound. Our band would be the opening act for an “RVATech Battle of the Geek Bands”.
If you’ve seen our office, you’ve likely noticed the amazing mural on the side. That’s from Richmond icon Ed Trask. In addition to being the drummer from the seminal punk band Kepone, he’s an artist and muralist. How we got it is an amazing story in itself, but one of our clients, Federal Realty, was looking for something to spruce up Willow Lawn. Willow Lawn has gone through a host of changes over the decades, and Federal Realty wanted something welcoming and eye-catching that perhaps paid homage to the history of the shopping center.
“How about Ed?”
We got in touch with Ed and persuaded Federal Realty to commission from him an extensive expanse of murals. We provided a design that Federal approved, and Ed put his personal touches on it. Drive by and you’ll see it.
We also do a good bit of work with Get Cozy. They have a fleet of vintage travel trailers and Piaggio mini-trucks that have been converted into mobile bars. If you’re having an event, you can rent one of their Cozy Caravans and have on-tap Prosecco, craft beers, or cocktails from a unique personalized bar, right there on-site.
It should come as no surprise that many of our clients call Get Cozy when they first start planning their next fundraiser or gala.
The team at Rocket Pop comes from a variety of backgrounds. Scott and his wife Cara both spent time in restaurants. Tim, our in-house developer, is a chef. Emily, a designer-developer, also makes jewelry. And playing an instrument is almost a pre-requisite for employment at our shop.
Between our histories and the relationships that we’ve created over the years, we’re able to add extra value to our work for clients – an appetizer here, a dessert there. We’re able to recommend the right wine pairing.
That’s why we always ask, “Will there be anything else?”
*ed. note: For a fascinating dive into the psychology of consumers, get “Why We Buy” by Paco Underhill. It’ll change your life.