Creating Excellence in Your Restaurant
Dine America is one of the premier restaurant and food service industry conferences globally and one that all leaders in this industry should put on their agenda to attend. This is not just another trade show! I mention this because it is where I first heard Horst Schulze speak.
Horst Schulze was recognised as the ‘corporate hotelier of the world’ by HOTELS Magazine in 1991. He was the president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company from 1988 until 2001 and served as Vice-Chairman for a further two years before departing for other endeavours. Horst Schulze is currently the Chairman and CEO of The West Paces Hotel Group.
Mr. Schulze is an absolute legend in the service world and among the leaders of the hospitality industry and has been quoted as saying “Many companies prefer to make money by cutting costs. I prefer to do it by creating excellence.”. His words are relevant across all industries but especially pertinent in the restaurant and hotel industries.
Do you have a plan, a strategy, and most importantly action points for you and your staff to create excellence in your restaurant daily?
Following are a few ideas that other restaurants and/or industries do daily to create excellence in the experience of their guests or clients. You may wish to consider how you can apply some or all of the ideas and systems in your business.
Bellmen at the Ritz Carlton will read the luggage tags of arriving guests and immediately greet the guests by their name.
Many banks use their clients name after each transaction. Now that may not be practical in all businesses but look to the signs. Phone orders, clients who use a credit card, and of course those who you already know all present excellent opportunities to use the client’s name; a word of caution though, do not presume to be able to refer to the guest by their first name. Many people are annoyed by this presumed familiarity and find it inappropriate.
Also, in situations where you have phone orders or phone based customer service interactions, the advancements in Computer Telephone Integration (CTI) and furthermore with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems allow you to provide your staff a comprehensive client profile immediately the phone rings so that your employees have all possible information to hand to be able to assist your client the second they answer the call. These systems are now very affordable and very much within the reach of even small operations.
Banish all generic and impersonal greetings such “Next”, “Who’s waiting”, “Can I help the next customer in line”, “Ready to order” etc.. You sound like every other impersonal business out there and clients have grown numb to it.
In respect of food delivery, ask for the client’s name instead of calling out “Number 888”. Again, do not subtly force the client to provide their first name by asking directly for it. Ask for their name, not their first name and let them provide whatever they are comfortable with.
When I lived in New York City my dry cleaner would see me jump out of the taxi outside and would have my clothes ready for me by the time I came through the front door and/or would have a docket ready to hand to me if I was there to drop some clothes off. She was an amazing woman, and I thought I was super special because that is how she made me feel. I later found out that she did this for all of her clients which simply confirmed how amazing she was.
Speed and efficiency of service are both key! In some restaurants whoever greets the guests upon arrival (e.g. venue manager, duty manager, restaurant manager, maitre d’hotel or host) will code the guest check, or service account in the integrated restaurant management and POS system, so when the waiter/waitress comes to the table or looks at their (handheld) service terminal, they know if it is a first-time guest, a regular customer, someone who is in a hurry and needs fast service et al. Using this system allows the waiter/waitress to customise the guests experience and contribute to making this visit at least meet and hopefully exceed the client’s expectations.
Add some buttons to the POS system that will inform the kitchen and food runners (or whatever you call your people delivery the food if not the waiter/waitress) that a guest is either a first-timer, a regular customer, in a hurry et al. Use the technology to create alerts that will allow you to more efficiently and effectively enhance the quality of your guest’s experience. You may want to give a returning customer a perk with a bounce-back voucher or a card that says “welcome to my restaurant” with a brief greeting that is hand signed by the manager, or even a visit from the manager to (additionally) personally welcome them.
Some of these ideas may sound corny, crazy, unusual, or unique. Whatever they are they are unfortunately (or fortunately for the few) different and differentiating. They are the small things that can create a viral marketing buzz about your restaurant both online and via offline word of mouth. If you monitor the restaurant review sites you will start to see these little touches come back in the customer reviews guests leave for each other online.
Go out and create excellence!