Last weekend, I experienced customer 💗, Hawaiian style. It was kupaianaha—amazing!

 

Dear, longtime friends who were visiting us were excited to introduce my wife and me to another longtime friend they had not seen in many years, so we decided to visit his restaurant for brunch on Saturday.

 

Patrick Choy is the owner, head cook, and pastry chef at Patrick’s Café and Bakery, and he showered us with his gracious enthusiasm for food and friends. A native Hawaiian, Patrick gave us a lesson in “Serving Aloha,” which is another way of saying, “bringing more 💗 into the world, one customer relationship at a time.”

The White Center neighborhood, just south of Seattle, is an up-and-coming area popular these days for its affordability in an area otherwise escalating out of reach for working-class singles, couples, and families. As the area becomes more fashionable, the retail environment is upping its game, too, and Patrick’s, established in 2014, is getting its due.

 

We were there a couple of hours, eating like island kings and queens. We visited with Patrick as he was occasionally able to step out of the kitchen. We had one gluten-free native Hawaiian within our two couples, two of us committed to plant-based eating (vegan), and one with an unrestricted diet and palate.

 

We were greeted with an assortment of gluten-free scones. We were graced with vegan fried rice with gluten-free soy sauce. Lumpia, a Hawaiian version of an egg roll, is on the menu in pork and vegan, so he’d prepared the vegan version for us (delicious!). Musubi, seaweed wrapped around rice, egg, and Spam, came to us in its traditional form and with tofu and vegetables replacing the egg and meat. When we thanked Patrick for accommodating all our various medical and dietary choices, he waved his hand at us—“I serve Aloha, so everyone feels welcome.”

 

He explained that, as in many cultures, food is an important love language in Hawai’i. You don’t go to someone’s home without bringing food. It’s unheard of to have a guest in your home without offering food. Food is essential for celebrating, for mourning, for holidays, for every day.

 

Our party watched his steady stream of patrons. Some were getting takeout Haupia Cinnamon Rolls, big, soft, doughy circles topped with coconut frosting. Some were picking up pre-ordered cakes for their celebrations later in the day. Some came to enjoy Hawai’i style breakfasts or bounteous lunches and probably also one of his amazing pastries. Many stopped to have a chat with Patrick, clearly regular visitors. They talked business, neighborhood changes, recipes, and dogs. (Every dog sitting with its people on the patio received a royal welcome from the owner, fussing to make sure they had fresh water in the early afternoon heat and a thorough patting, rubbing, and scratching behind the ears.)

 

Patrick’s modest storefront has become a neighborhood gathering place where all are welcome, everyone feels like a friend to him, and he makes an effort to truly connect with each person who walks through the door. It’s clear his regulars love him, not only for his amazing food and that people just discovering his place leave already wanting to come back. For me, who spends my life preaching the power of customer connection, it was a heady experience.

 

Whether you’re serving food, software, services, or something else, Patrick’s place can be an inspiration. How’s your business doing at being welcoming? Do your customers 💗 you enough?