The diner’s menu touted its mac ‘n’ cheese, World Famous since 1929! Jamie decided he had to have some — for breakfast.

No doubt the waitress was a little surprised. It was 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and most people were slamming down waffles, fried eggs or omelets with a side of bacon. But Jamie really wanted the World Famous mac ‘n’ cheese.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t serve mac ‘n’ cheese until lunchtime,” she said regretfully. “And that doesn’t start until 11:30 a.m.” Jamie looked crestfallen. “Really? I had my heart set on the mac ‘n’ cheese,” he said. “I guess we need a few minutes to order then.”

This story could have ended with two eggs over easy, ham and home fries, but a few minutes later, the waitress returned.  She’d asked the cook:  He would make Jamie mac ‘n’ cheese. For breakfast.

It got me thinking about my short-lived career as a waitress, long long ago. It never would have occurred to me to ask the cook to deviate from an established work process when a customer came in with a unique request. In training, I had been drilled: No substitutions. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were circumscribed by specific times on the clock. We operated by the rules, policies and procedures. And it made perfect business sense — the kitchen needed to be set up in a way that allowed cooks and servers to efficiently deliver meals to large numbers of people.

So on that Saturday morning, we applauded the waitress and the obliging cook for “breaking the rules” and transforming a disappointed and grumbling man to a grinning extremely satisfied customer.

But let's just imagine, for a second, if restaurant policy had required our waitress to ask the assistant manager if the cook could change a work process to make mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast.

And the assistant manager had to call the manager….

And the manager needed to get permission from the regional manager….

And the regional manager had to submit a request for approval from the corporate Vice President….

By the time a decision was made, the opportunity to quickly and easily satisfy a unique customer request would have gone up in frying pan smoke.

Did the waitress and cook need to understand what it would cost to deviate from a work process in order to satisfy the customer? Absolutely. If Jamie had wanted something more complicated — or something not even on the menu — the answer would likely have been “no.” But thanks to two business literate employees, the waitress got a big tip, the restaurant won a special place in our hearts, and Jamie had plenty of carbs to burn on his bike ride home.