A Little Tiramisu Can Sweeten Any Customer Experience

My wife recently had a birthday and thus chose Il Fornaio on Coronado Island as our destination
to celebrate.  We like the food at Il Fornaio very much but absolutely love the view looking across San Diego bay at the entire San Diego downtown.  It is often a place we take visitors from out of town for that very reason.

When I made my reservation, they asked if we were celebrating any special occasion they should know about.  I indicated it was my wife’s birthday.  Upon arriving at the restaurant we found the food and service to all be as we have come to expect.  There was however no mention of my wife’s birthday at all.  At the end of the meal, our server brought us the check and with it, two applications for their customer loyalty club.  My wife filled out an application and we returned it with our signed check complete with tip and all.  On this night we decided we were going to go somewhere else for a little coffee and dessert.

This is the point at which our experience went from normal to awesome.  When we were just about to leave the restaurant our server returned to the table and said “I was just looking at your application and see that it’s your birthday.  Please stay here and I’ll get you a piece of cake to celebrate.”  She returned a few minutes later with a full piece of Tiramisu!  We love Tiramisu and were obviously delighted.

What they didn’t know about my wife is that when she has Tiramisu, she always wants a coffee to go with it.  We flagged down our server and ordered one.  When we were done with that, she brought us our check for the coffee and we were so delighted with the whole experience that we gave her significantly more tip.  What a terrific evening.  From a customer experience standpoint, here are the things Il Fornaio teaches us:

1. Empower your employees to delight customers- When our server recognized it was my wife’s birthday she knew exactly what to do.

2. Delighted customers spend more money- Upon receiving our free dessert we bought coffee (after we had paid for dinner) and left a bigger tip!

3. Delighted customer tell their friends- Il Fornaio will continue to be a place we take our guests but now I’m telling you to go there as well.


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  • How sweet this is! There truly is nothing better than a free amazingly delicious dessert. This waitress paid attention to detail and went above and beyond to enhance your dining experience. I’m delighted just reading this 🙂

  • Great to hear about the happy ending. The Coronado Il Fornaio location is a favorite of mine too – tough to beat the amazing view, good food, good service, and good value.

    Two additional lessons I’d propose:
    1) The system can make service easier or harder. Why wasn’t it easier for your server to know that it was your wife’s birthday?
    2) Exceptional people can trump the system. Your server obviously made an effort to save you from a mild disappointment when she discovered you were celebrating a special occasion.

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