• Peter Bouloukos

Is "Service" and "Up-selling" dead? Is your management style killing it???


Is "Service" and "Up-selling" dead? Is your management style killing it???

September 24, 2015

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Peter Dean Bouloukos

Recently I was at a chain restaurant for dinner. The hostess brought us to the table, set down the menus and walked off. Eventually the server came to the table and like a robot recited specials and asked us what we wanted to drink. The waitress came back with the drinks carried in two hands forcing her to awkwardly place them close handed down on the table and around uncomfortably. I ordered a $16 entrée and again like a robot was offered an additional item for $4.99 more. I declined, now deflated the server say’s “they make us ask.” 50 percent of all guests who come to your restaurant for the first time will never return because it’s not part of their comfort zone or habit cycle. On the second visit, it’s 50 percent likely they will never return again. Now, if you can get a guest to come back a third time, it’s 70 percent likely they will return again and with a “point and click” speak volumes about you over a period of time. Don’t think about how to provide great service on visit one, focus upon how you will best win them back for visit number three.

Now, a few days later, I am sitting in on a front of house meeting at a casual themed restaurant. The manager leading part of the meeting begins speaking about “up-selling” because people “want it” and it is “important.” The management team and ownership group move forward with “service” while completly ignoring the "how" or specifics of great service.

A few more statements about “service, service, service” had most of the staff looking at walls or down at their smart phones. I hear one staff member mumble to another: “Maybe if we had enough support on the floor our service would be better.” I hear the other person quietly add: “I know, they cut staff, I had to host, answer the phone, bartend and wait on a half full restaurant” while the managers were back in the office. Don’t try to be everything to everyone! It’s more important to be “something to someone” and in the above case, having $9 or $18 dollars per hour on the floor for an extra hour or two might provide the “hospitality” a first time guest would remember. It no doubt would show great value and respect bartenders and servers deserve. Show team members you absolutely support their best efforts and they will show you so much more in return. Further, don't "spray" and "pray" education or training. Talking about something in a meeting is one thing, but "investing" in each team member where they uniquely stand will produce confidence and superior levels of performance in an on-going fashion. Two unique stories absolutely warning operators of the dangers involved in programming “profit” into the minds of management and team members while demanding exceptional “service” at all times. The worlds “Up-selling” and “Service” are precarious and often meaningless in many operations that treat employee’s as a “cost” and people like “things.” If you don't understand distinctions here an invisible problem may be festering within your organization. Funny, but I was sold on a strong regional restaurant group in a series of meetings. I led with strong “values, standards and integrity” each time. I recited “servant leadership” and “knowledge aged” management techniques placing the employee first and everything else second. When it came time to perform it seemed the management team and ownership group was oblivious to simple fundamentals promised. These no doubt would carry forward better hospitality, service and local reputation. To them, everything was a number and it’s no wonder they suffer so much turnover at every level of operations matched by very little local patronage. Completely "out of touch" in my humble opinion but this alone should raise eyebrows from more savvy operators looking to make improvements. Yes, numbers are important but don't jump over dollars to grab nickels and pennies. The most important asset or capital any business possess is the quality and character of its people. You can't put a dollar symbol next to this very important math! But I digress. Service is not “hospitality” and treating both staff members and customers like things is dangerous. Traditional accounting places “labor” as a liability! Treating customers like a body with a pocketbook attached is ignorant, small-minded. Have you ever heard a General Manager or Owner demand immediately to know what the per person average was the night prior before ever walking through the operation to say "hello" to see how everyone is doing? Now, treating the guest like a dollar sign will never extend the warmth or hospitality championing repeat visits or positive word of mouth. Over the years, I have been privileged to work for and with quite a few small and large restaurant groups and independent operations on a variety of fronts. Subjects like “service” and “profitability” are definitely important but linking the two is very abstract or foreign to most. You see, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE claims to have the best food and best service. Service is an “expectation” for any business. Ask yourself this: "What distinguishes you from every other place with "great food & great service?"

Hospitality is how to get a guest to come back the third time. Learning to focus upon hospitality takes time, expertise and has to be unique to each employee and every table. Hospitality is the only thing addressing the primary reason people walk into a restaurant or bar operation. Learning to develop greatness within is a worthwhile investment. Now, instead of up-selling or reading a script, it’s important to build confidence within your team so they will be capable of guiding or providing “helpful suggestions” to a guest. Done correctly, the guest learns something or tries something new and feels great about the approach and experience. Pre-scripted upselling techniques seem pushy and almost desperate not only making the guest feel uncomfortable but also your valued employee. The distinctions between service, hospitality, quality products, great food, upselling and helpful suggestions will make a significant difference to any bottom line, guest counts, employee retention and morale.

No matter how you look at it, hospitality creates the lasting impression and understanding how to create a winning atmosphere on a consistent basis is vital. Trust me, it’s an “invisible product” the guests actually “purchase” or “buy into.” Learning the distinctions will make a guest feel great about doing business with you. The meaning of “customer service” is always evolving because guest demands can change with a Reality TV show or a “point and click” online. Keeping up with this requires agility and on-going leadership development. When is the last time you sent your manager or management team off for a weekend of development? If your impulse was "I can't afford this" or "I don't need to do this" trust me you are already doing something wrong and truly need to consider making changes in approach.

To learn more about simple steps to success please ask me, but I will end with this: Be hospitable, authentic and supportive at all times to the number one asset in any operation...your staff. Your employees are not a liability and absolutely drive the bus! The truth is, operations with the highest level of employee satisfaction also have the greatest increases in sales and market share year after year beyond population growth and road traffic increase…numbers that lull even savvy operators to sleep. Owners, accountants, analysts and managers do not serve their guests directly, with this, they had better be serving someone who no doubt is. Yours in Success, Peter Dean Bouloukos


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