Fred Harvey was a name almost every American knew in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This son of Britain had come to America and made his mark in the food industry. Working with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, he built a chain of restaurants across the great Southwest which became legendary for their insistance on quality and their devotion to the customer.
In his book, “Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West,” Stephen Fried says Harvey originated the first national chain of restaurants, of hotels, of newsstands, and of bookstores–”in fact, the first national chain of anything–in America.”
You may be familiar with the Judy Garland movie on the Harvey Girls, another innovation of Fred Harvey’s. He recruited single young women in the East, then sent them to work in his restaurants from Kansas City to California. In doing so, he inadvertently provided wives for countless westerners and helped to populate a great segment of the USA.
All of this is just so we can relate one story from the book.
Once, in the short period before women took over the serving duties for his restaurants, Harvey was fielding a complaint from one of his “eating house stewards” about a particularly demanding customer.
“There’s no pleasing that man,” said the steward. “He’s nothing but an out and out crank!”
Harvey responded, “Well, of course he’s a crank! It’s our business to please cranks. Anyone can please a gentleman.”
Anyone can please a gentleman.
It’s our business.
Why did that line sound familiar to me, I wondered as I read past that little story. I know. It sounds so much like the Lord Jesus.
Think of it.