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

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.