March 6, 2012

4 Mistakes to Avoid in the Restaurant Business

Baja Fresh, a casual Mexican dining chain was featured in one episode of Undercover Boss. Throughout the episode we learn a few things that employees can do to improve customer service and the overall reputation of the restaurant in an American context. 

Keeping with the Status Quo and Not Trying Different Approaches
Just over 700 No Signs
Baja Fresh, like other chain eateries are based on a cookie-cutter concept. In this concept, there are many aspects that are copied from individual store to individual store. However, customer demographic and need may differ based on many factors. An apt manager and line employees can take this into account while creating unique programs to fit the needs of the unique demographic. For instance, in the episode, Carrie who works in the Boise, Idaho store, has implemented various schemes like lunch delivery and catering to make life a bit easier for her customers. Jose, in Mesa, Arizona thanks regular customers for their patronage by buying them a free lunch from time to time.

Doing these atypical things can be risky, or they can reap great rewards; improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. Happy customers are repeat customers. Happy customers are more apt to bring in new customers to share in the experience they enjoyed. It is because of innovative customer strategies which may break the normal process that some franchises in a chain can excel while others do not.  

Relying on Coupons or Promotions
Carrie in Boise mentioned that when their location opened initially they provided the guests a plethora of coupon offers. While these offers encouraged sales, they discouraged the customers paying the regular prices of the menu items. Due to this, over time the promotions devalued the brand. When this happened, she had to think of new ways to restructure the menu options and prices so that the location did not lose money, but was able to sell product at the correct price to maintain a particular profit margin.

This lesson is very important for many businesses. It may seem attractive to offer discounts, coupons, promotions and lower prices than a competitor. However, when this is done over a span of time, customers rely on this and do not appreciate the actual value of what they are buying. Promotions not only hurt the locations relying on them to bring in customers, but can adversely affect the entire industry, bring prices, revenue and profit down for people across the industry.

Not Apologizing to Customers for Lackluster and Bad Service
When customer service is not up to mark, customers become disgruntled and do not have a good experience. Any number of things can create customer discontentment. A manager on duty (along with the line staff) should be sensitive to this, adapt their behavior accordingly and follow up with a sincere apology. In one location, our Undercover Boss was left alone to fend for himself during a lunch hour rush at the cash register. He, of course, new to the cash register and menu options was very slow and may have filled orders incorrectly. After the rush slowed down, the manager took the Undercover Boss into the dining room to apologize for the service delay due to on-the-job-training. The apology included a “sorry” and a coupon to get free or discounted food on another visit. This coupled with the tip above this, doesn’t appear to be a recipe for success.

Being Grumpy or Disengaged with Customers
American customers expect the employees to greet them with a smile, often ask “How are you?” and try to create affable conversation in the short amount of time it takes to give the order. This is an acquired skill at a fast food restaurant for a cashier. When the cashier is happy, joyful, smiling, engaging and full of enthusiasm, the customers get the idea that the employee is having a good day, enjoys his job and feels comfortable in handling customers and his job. Even if this is not true, this is the kind of enthusiasm that is expected by the customers and from the company as it projects a positive image of the company. This behavior also increases customer satisfaction and repeat business. Would a customer prefer to go to a restaurant where the employees are happy, smiling, engaging and know their job or a restaurant where the employees are miserable, make mistakes, and ignore customers? Answer this question correctly, and you will have no problem pleasing most American customers.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds at flickr. 

Jennifer Kumar, an expat trainer, coaches expat business people in the US realize success while working in the US and creating fruitful business relationships.  

Chris Sufi is a freelance editor who lives in Bangalore, India. Her personal interest in language and communication inspires her to contribute through proofreading and editing. She can be contacted here.  

No comments:

Post a Comment