Letters From Leton: The Greatest Steak I Ever Had Was A Disappointment

A number of years back, I had the opportunity and pleasure to serve as a member and subsequent Chairman of the Risk Management Association’s (RMA) Community Bank Council. Fifteen Bank CEOs and Executives from around the country provided input and guidance to the RMA as the organization supported Community Banks.

Our fall meeting was normally held in Chicago, as it was central to folks from throughout the U.S. and with good air service.

One of the Council members had shared that if we ever had the chance, we needed to go to a certain steak house in the city which billed itself as having the world’s greatest steaks. Those who have traveled to Chicago likely know the importance of cattle to the city and the history of the steakhouses there.

One year I found it was cheaper to fly into Chicago on Saturday instead of the typical Sunday fly-in. Flying in early also gave me a chance to try out the restaurant with the world’s greatest steaks since normally our two nightly dinners were organized by the RMA.

After landing and getting to the hotel at 4:00 PM, I called the restaurant. I shared I knew it was a Saturday night, however, I wanted to ask if there was any way to get a reservation for the evening.

“How many in your party?”

“Just me.”

“Oh, okay. We can take you at 5.”

Without unpacking, I rushed out of the room, hailed a cab (pre-Uber days) and arrived at the restaurant.

I was seated at a small table in the corner. My order was straight forward and simple – steak (best in the world), baked potato, and a salad with blue cheese dressing. Water with lemon to drink.

While waiting for my food, I soaked up the atmosphere. 

The restaurant looked great. Well-dressed servers. Deep, rich wood interior. A beautiful bar. Lively conversations among snazzy patrons. Some jazz music in the background.

The room was gradually filling up, but there were a few empty tables (all full by the time I left).

After about 15 minutes I wondered where my water and bread were. Catching the waiters attention, he returned after a few minutes with a glass of water (few pieces of ice – no lemon) and hard (very hard) bread. That should have alerted me.

Salad came. Lettuce a little wilted and with ranch (not blue cheese) dressing.

Then came the steak and potato. I sliced into the steak and took my first bite. Oh my goodness! Wow! This was the greatest steak I had ever tasted or have tasted since!

After a few bites of steak I took a bite of the baked potato. It was cool – almost cold.

I finished the steak, hailed a cab and went back to the hotel to unpack.

Over the years, I’ve often pondered my experience at the Greatest Steak Ever Place, including the lesson for bankers.

We do a great job of opening folks accounts, but do we check to make sure that their new instant issued debit card is working before they leave our office? If it doesn’t, what a bummer.

We are friendly and cheerful at the teller line, but did we miss the account number when completing the transaction? If so, the customer’s debit card is rejected half an hour after their “deposit” for lack of funds.

We make a person’s dreams come true when financing a car, a home or business, but do we properly set up the direct payment? If not, the customer’s loan goes past due and their credit score is impacted.

Do we do something very good (like making a great steak) and expect that action to cover our other miscues?

What if the waiter had brought my water (with lemon) and some warm bread after a few minutes? What if the salad had come with fresh ingredients and blue cheese dressing? What if the baked potato had been steaming hot?

If these things had occurred, I suspect that the title of this week’s letter would have been, “The Greatest Meal I Ever Had,” rather than, “The Greatest Steak I Ever Had.”

Every detail is important. Every customer interaction is important. Every action or inaction has consequences and impact.

Some businesses and banks do not understand that.

I hope we do.

Stay safe and get vaccinated.

– Leton


“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.