Striving for a First Class Restaurant Experience

No matter what type of business you have it is imperative to command a well educated staff who understands the importance of service excellence with every last interaction with the customer. Service excellence as it relates to the restaurant industry is a requirement since there are so many areas in which perfection is an expectation of the experience.
These areas include but are not limited to customer service, education and appearance of your staff; as a subset this must include a certain level of enthusiasms, and always meeting and exceeding customer expectations. This is not limited to face to face interactions but it also includes the appearance of the establishment, the quality of the food, and the hygiene used to prepare the selections. It doesn’t matter how flashy your ads are, or how attractive your staff appears if the customer leaves feeling unfulfilled at the end of the experience.
“…there are some basic truths about service. First, it’s always defined from a customer’s perspective, never from ours.” (http://waiterbell.wordpress.com/2006/05/17/article-service-the-real-product-of-your-restaurant-you-know-it-so-do-your-customers/) This statement couldn’t drive home the point any more clearly. That is why it is so essential to train all staff employees in a consistent and engaging manor, while giving them some ownership of the corporate mission, and philosophy. It has become to regular of a process in this day and age of fast food giants, to want the customer in and out of the establishment as soon as possible with no regard to there lasting impression of the service.

To mention a few chains, that I personally find less than delectable, such as the infamous McDonald’s who has allowed the quality of their food slip along with the comprehension of their employees. So much for service with a smile, most times you will find a miserable individual behind the counter with a distinct lack of enthusiasm waiting for their shift to be over.
On the other end of the spectrum you find establishments such as The Cheese Cake Factory where service excellence is reflected through there training allowances. “…The firm spends an average of $2,000 on training per hourly worker each year. Everyone within the organization benefits from training and development initiatives.” They have truly set up policies to live by, which gages their turn over rate as a return on there investment. They are about fifteen percent below industry standards which currently hovers around 106% turnover.
The key to having motivated employees and helping them to understand that they are part of something bigger comes first with the managers recruited. “…Most managers think that employees are motivated solely by money. But research shows that intangible items — such as appreciation for doing a good job, open communication and involvement in decision-making — often play a more crucial role in employee motivation.
 These non monetary recognitions help to promote confidence, and ownership in the company as it relates to on going service expectations. In order for people to improve or get better at there jobs they must have regular feedback as to a “job well done” or needed improvement in certain areas. From a managers perspective it comes down to the definition of clinical insanity “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” A good manager knows how to motivate their employees, and will recognize opportunities to get different personality types to open up, and perform at their best.
Involvement in decision making policies is another way to motivate employees, giving them an active role in when changing corporate infrastructure, makes them feel as if their opinion matters. Not only will most people with ambition jump at the change to take on additional responsibility but it will also create a forum to recognize other management abilities already with in the organization.
This forum will also allow for individuals to communicate openly with regards to there feelings about management, and where improvements could be made to the entire system. It easy for the “higher ups” to get disconnected with the flow of day to day operations, and for them to loose contact with there ever changing customer, with ever changing needs. Keeping an active pulse on these issues will allow for efficient adjustments to these changes, and a distinct competitive advantage.
When talking about learning curves and on going education it is important to work with every individual inside of the organization, from the cooks to the managers. The frequency of the training sessions is a delicate line that must be addressed carefully. It is important to take the staffs availability, relevant changes to corporate processes, along with varying levels of learning abilities into consideration when outlining the training schedule.
These factors are important because you do not want to spend to much time training those who already understand, while neglecting those that may require more a more detailed explanation. “Waiters, waitresses, chefs, and fast-food workers demonstrating potential for handling increased responsibility sometimes advance to assistant manager or management trainee jobs. Executive chefs need extensive experience working as chefs, and general managers need experience as assistant managers.”
This is especially true for established businesses that need to keep the same quality expected from the presentation, to the ingredients. It is very easy to look towards cutting corners, and saving pennies when sales decrease, or when operating cost rise. This is more of a question when, and having strategies in force to circumvent these changes allow for longevity, and continued success.
For this success to continue the training systems, and corporate philosophy must have exceeding expectations build into the employees requirements.
“THE contented woman, savoring Marko’s warm bread, stopped in mid-bite, looked puzzled, turned to her tablemates and asked ‘Why didn’t I ever know this restaurant was here?’”
Awe invoking service is a difficult task to attain especially when the customers perception of these services is becoming more and more expected. If this same awe invoking service is seen on a regular basis, then steps must be taken to bring the “awe factor” up a degree as time passes. If a customer is used to outstanding service and that one time receives a less than stellar dining experience the repercussions could be staggering. Bad news travels ten times faster and farther than good news, and that hard earned reputations could go right out the door with that one instance.
In closing knowing all the techniques to provide a professional level of service in the industry is not enough to keep the business running. It also requires a clear understanding of the foundations of good service and developing the staff and management to best to fit in the restaurant, and the customer. The key is to maintaining the most professional service of any kind and learning the consequences of not having the power of good service.

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