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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Know Your Customers

For Chef  Michael Gagné, there is no substitute for 100 percent homemade food and regular communications with customers he knows personally. In April 2008 Chef Gagné was named "2008 Chef of the Year" by Maine Restaurant Association.  Go to the homepage for this video...

Key Question:


Michael's Robinhood Free Meetinghouse Restaurant would be considered a bad location by most. Rather than being bad for business, Michael makes the off-the-beaten-path historical building good for business.

Q: How does Michael capitalize on his location?

In addition to creating a fine dining experience, he learns your name. He does this both literally and figuratively. He calls people by name when they come in and he has developed and an opt-in mailing list. These are all customers, and as he says, "I'm vested in their enjoyment."

He has a love affair with food and a wonderful swaggering humility about his work. By giving customers the option to be on his mailing list, he taps into the desire each of us has to be in charge of our lives. We like to control what comes to us in the physical and cyber mail. We respect people who ask us our opinion and those who ask permission to stay in touch with us. An opt-in list is the best way for every small business to stay in touch with repeat customers. Michael spares his customers. His list is approaching 10,000 names, but he only mails twice a year. If 50% of these people come in twice a year, he has a business. His restaurant has been cited as the "Best in Maine" and in New England.

Think about it

How do you communicate with customers now? Would an opt-in mailing list be good for you? How would you go about creating such a list and what would you mail the customers?

Clip from: Marketing From A Distance - Maine to the world

One of eleven business owners in this episode

The Coast of Maine: Meet people who see the world as their marketplace. They see beyond the horizon; they know no boundaries and no borders; the world's people are their family.

In this episode of the show we meet eleven business owners who would rather live in Maine than anywhere else in the world. They are seasoned travelers who, after touring the world, decided to stay in Maine and make it their home and build their legacy.

Every person in this episode is committed to their community. They are active in their local Chamber and they are driven to make their community and our world a better place.  
And, we could go to every village, city and town in the world and find people like the people you meet here.  
These are the quiet heroes. Many are new pioneers. They charter new waters and break new grounds. They all create unique products and services and sell them around the world. They are volunteers, the value creators, the movers, the shakers, the doers, and the lovers of life. We can learn a lot from these hardworking, decent folks.

Robinhood Free Meetinghouse

Michael Gagne, Owner

210 Robinhood Road
Georgetown, ME 04548

Visit our web site:

Office: 2073712188

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1994

Know Your Customers

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Two and a half hours from Boston, just a short drive off Highway 127 and nestled in the trees, we find Michael Gagne's Robinhood Free Meetinghouse. You can dine with Michael in this 1856 post-and-beam church that has been completely restored. You can book the upstairs for special events, or if you need fabulous food delivered, he caters, too. Like every great small-business owner, Michael not only delivers a consistently fabulous product, he takes time to listen to and to get to know his customers.

MICHAEL GAGNE (Owner/Chef): (Voiceover) We have the best food around. We're all handmade. There's no "from the can to the pan."

(Voiceover) All sauces are by reduction. We make our own stocks, bone our own meat, sausages, sorbets, ice cream, spreads, etc. If you don't like our food, it's our fault because we actually made it. Ordering ... artichoke strudel, onion tart.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The food is delicious, of course, but I asked Michael how he reminds people to keep coming back.

MICHAEL: Our basic vehicle is our mailing list, which is a `Do you want to be on it?' mailing list.

(Voiceover) We don't sell that list. We send two mailings a year, which provides me a vehicle for my personal philosophy, and we do use local advertisers to help promote it, etc. We put the whole thing together. It's not a shiny, professional, glossy thing at all. It's homemade.

We send the mailing to a mailing company, you know, who specializes in printing and doing bulk mailing. We used to actually do pizza parties where we'd have our staff come in and stuff envelopes.

(Voiceover) I don't ask my clients to do my marketing. I don't do surveys. I don't ask anything of them other than, you know, `Please come to my place and let me try to please you.' For advertising purposes, even if they don't open the mail, they see my logo and the fact that it came from me. So for 59 cents a mailing, I know that someone's actually seeing it. But I do get a lot of positive response from people.

(Voiceover) Because I have a rather personal relationship with most of my clients. I do walk the tables during dinner. I mean, I'm vested in their enjoyment of the event. I don't ascribe to the theory that chefs are artists. We're craftsmen.

And the times that art is achieved when we actually transcend the temporal are rare, but that's what we're shooting for.

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