Feeding soul happiness
I have worked with many different kinds of service providers as a Brand Consultant. I believe that the one with the highest risk of success and failure dependent on actual service delivery has to be the Restaurant space. There is instant criticism, gratification and dismissal. Very rarely do people react with the strength of emotions that one sees in this industry.
Some might think of Healthcare. But for me that is a different case — and I am not going to talk about how many establishments are taking people for a ride with the sort of money they charge, and the quality of care given for small fortunes. However, Hospitals, people will keep visiting; there is no choice.
But service levels at a Restaurant can make or break the existence of the place. So if the customer in today’s world is spoilt for choice and has the loyalty quotient of a cabbage, and is armed with technology to tweet, post, tag and rant/love — what does a Restaurant (Chain) do to ensure that they deliver value without running under? Some things I have learnt, and would like to share.
Know those who love you
It happens many times. A customer walks in, spends more than the average amount, has a great time, interacts with one server, and walks out. As a restaurant, you should try to get to know this person with the commitment of a private investigator on a case. However, he comes, and goes. Next time he comes in, meets a new server (which happens considering that churning of staff at any restaurant) and is treated like a new customer — how do you think he feels? Safe to assume— not great. So try to put a CRM in place. Basic things like tracking users through Mobile Numbers and Check-ins is easy and enough technology is available. If your patrons book tables using various reservation services then it makes life that much easier to track them.
Serve them beyond their expectations
Know them, then, know them a little bit more. What are your regulars allergic to? How do they like their steaks? Do they have any seating preference? Do they like being served cold or warm water? Current mechanisms don’t allow restaurants to know any of this — but imagine if the user was to book a table, give these preferences at the time of booking and then this information gets shared with the restaurant manager and the user at the same time. Now you know them better — so that you can serve them even better.
Open your world to criticism
It is 8:30pm, and I am on my second beer. Somehow it doesn’t seem right, and I think it is flat. I request the server to change it, and he picks up the pint bottle and tries to look through it with his x-ray vision which seemingly has the god-gifted power of figuring out whether the liquid inside is frothy or not! Like seriously dude! Just change the beer! Don’t be a schmuck! It is just a bottle, but the moment you make me feel like a liar that’s when the problem starts.
There will be many times when people have such reactions and worse! How does the restaurant attend to, or even hear of such incidents, before they become talking points on Facebook and Twitter? Then there is no space for damage control. It is too late. The game is lost.
So, here is the trick to winning this — give a space to rant. Give a space to vent frustration. Let the user abuse and criticise. Then let him speak his mind a bit more, only to be placated by your active involvement in addressing the issue. This can be done if you have mapped his life well, and given him a dedicated space — maybe a section on the website, or through partner applications which enable them to book a table, eat, review and then rant if need be! Automate his life, and he will not look outside. Many service apps have a dedicated section to allow user reviews — these are difficult to build for a restaurant. But it isn’t difficult to latch on to Table Reservation Services and use their engines to drive this.
Let generosity flow through your veins. Give people points when they walk-in, burp, fart, check-in, book a table, review, rate, rant and basically think of you in their sleep. Just give points, track their life, tie up with merchants, push money back into the users’ wallet and shower them with happiness. But it is impossible to do all this without a strong technology mechanism in place. Think of investing in basic non-expensive technology partners who not only give you a CRM backend, but also get people to book, walk-in, review, and go through the reward cycle and live with you for a much longer time.
Restaurants need to realise that investing in such technology not only makes their life easier, but ensures that they are more relevant in the long run. The world is changing really fast. It is changing beyond what we can track or control. The only thing we can, and should do, is prepare us with technology that optimises user experience to deliver more value and delight. It is not about just feeding people. It is about feeding their egos, desires, needs and the bit of happiness in their soul.