Archives for posts with tag: restaurant

I have been reviewing books for a number of years now; however, movies have always been my passion and on occasion I have used movies in staff meetings for the accessibility of the message, and for more personal management lessons. I decided that it was time to share some of these. Please note that this review does contain spoilers for the movie and is more of a reference for interesting scenes and themes.

The Founder is the true story of The McDonald Brothers, who created the first McDonald’s Burger Restaurant, and Ray Croc who saw the potential in what the McDonald Brothers had created and turned it into the franchise and behemoth that we know today. Starring Michael Keaton, as Ray Croc, The Founder is certainly a cautionary tail about choosing your business partners, but it is also a story about realizing potential, and understanding your business and your customers.

The movie starts by following Ray Croc as an ice cream mixer sales man to bad drive in restaurants. While it is obvious that he is an archetypal slimy sales man, the patter he uses is surprisingly modern and essentially comes down to “build it and they will come.”
When he comes across the McDonald Brothers’ restaurant, it is different from any that the traveling salesman has come across in the past: Bulk sales of three items, no plates or utensils, and the food is received in 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes.

While the story of how the brothers reached this point is interesting on many levels, the 20-minute mark is of particular note. The McDonald Brothers take their staff to a tennis court, lay out their new kitchen design in chalk, and have the staff act out the “speedy system” that will allow them to make burgers like nobody else. What is most interesting about this sequence is the McDonald Brothers attention to detail and choreography of how their staff moves. They recognize that they are creating a system and that it has to be right or it will not work at all – even if that mean them redesigning the kitchen multiple times.

At the 50-minute mark the discussion of franchising, and the potential for a drop in standards, is examined in detail. This in turn leads to the realization that franchise owners should be sales people who are wholly vested in the venture, and looking for an opportunity, rather than just investors looking to make money anyway they can. Again, this plays into a central theme of the movie – chose who you go into business with wisely.

One hour and 18 minutes marks the real revelation of the McDonald’s story. That the McDonald’s franchise is not in the burger business at all, but actually in the real-estate business. Rent provides steady revenue and it is capital that fuels expansion.
Things start to go seriously wrong for the McDonald Brothers at the one hour and 29-minute mark with the breaking of their contract with Ray Croc and how Ray Croc sees business. A significant take away from the movie is that the McDonald Brothers and the Ray Croc have fundamentally different views on business, what a business should be to the community, and how a business person behaves.

It is certainly a cautionary tale.

While it would be a mistake to paint Ray Croc as a mustache twirling villain, his ethical standards are dubious at best. Re-watching the movie, with the benefit of knowing what happens, it is interesting to note all the places where the McDonald Brothers treat Ray Croc less as a partner and more as an employee. They frustrate his attempts to monetize the franchise, and are unbending in their standards even if that creates a significant impediment to the creation of a viable business. One can certainly see the position that Ray Croc finds himself in, and while his solution is mean and dishonest, it is not one of his making. Unlike most business stories where the good guy visionary’s do battle against the dark hearted managers, “The Founder” is more a tale of restrictive managers with a good idea and a visionary with dubious morals.

A thoughtful viewing of “The Founder” should provide pause for anyone going into a partnership, and it should also serve as a cautionary tale of the value of communication in a business, the miracle of systems, and the power of vision.

Why does being a customer suck?

Does it at your business?

Are you being honest?

How would you know if it did?

What happens when you walk into a restaurant you’ve never been to before? Do you stand there for a moment wondering whether you need to seat yourself or wait to be seated? Do you go up to the counter and order? How open are they going to be to changing one of their dishes to meet your needs?

O.K., enough question marks.

As a restaurant owner, or any business owner for that matter, it is obvious how your business works to you, but your clients almost certainly don’t walk through those doors every day -mores the pity.

Education of the client is often held up as a key component in a lot of service industries to solve these issues (yes veterinarians, I’m looking at you). Our job, as delivers of services however, should be to hold our clients hands through this process and make it as painless as possible. Clients should not need to become experts in how to deal with us, or the industries in which we work.

As I discussed at some length in this post about marketing and branding, what you sell is not necessarily what your clients are buying. The customer experience should reflect this. I had a recent customer service experience that brought this all into sharper light. Because the owner of the business is a friend, I’m not going to go into that particular experience directly, but it did cause me to re-evaluate what I do, how I respond to clients who do have issues, and do some thinking at length about what “customer service” actually is. Instead, let me tell you about my bathroom…

A while back I had a bathroom tiled. I spent a significant amount of time picking out exactly the right shade of tile that I wanted and the size. At the end of day one of the installation however, I come to find out that the tiles are actually two slightly different shades. I talk with the installer and the answer is “Well that is how they come – It is to give the effect of real marble.” Well, I did not want two tone tiles, I wanted them all the same color. Who is right here, and who is wrong? The store, and the installer, are both perfectly right – the tiles are manufactured that way and I’m sure that for most installations it would have made lots of sense, but that was not what I was purchasing! I was purchasing my bathroom tiled in a particular shade!

Interestingly, I was was in a locally owned and operated store a little while later and happened to look at their tiles. Their display was actually setup so that for tiles of the type I was looking at, all the shades of the same batch of tile were shown together as a single piece rather than just an individual tile. This removed the “different shade shock” that I had experienced when I had bought tiles for my bathroom.

Other than showing my bad taste in tiles, what does this experience tell us? It tells us that it is very difficult to forget information or view things as if we don’t know about that information. Chip and Dan Heath, in their book “Switch – How to Change things when change is hard,” have an excellent exercise that you can use with staff – or even just friends – that shows this in action. Give a volunteer a piece of paper with the name of a very common tune written on it and get them to ‘knock’ out the rhythm of the tune on a table and see if the others in the room can guess what tune it is. Try it with a number of different tunes and people. Those knocking the tune out will find it really hard to understand why everyone else in the room can’t guess correctly. The reason for this is that they are hearing the tune in their own heads along with the knocking. They have knowledge which everyone else in the room does not. Not only are they unable to communicate that knowledge, but they don’t understand how or why everyone else in room does not have that knowledge – it is an alien perspective to them.

This is just like my tile sales man and installer who could not understand why I did not know what they knew about tiles. It is also the same phenomenon that has you hesitant and unsure in the lobby of a restaurant you’ve never been to before – the big sign saying “please wait to be seated” can be a huge relief. I’d also argue that this is one of the reasons why chains are so successful. Familiarity is easy!

So what does this all tell us?

Well perhaps we need to start really listening to our clients and thinking about their experience and how it is not our experience. It might sound trite but customer service is about serving the customer. If we have a lot of education deliver to a client, perhaps the problem is that we have not made things simple enough. Of course, if the client wants more information they need to have it, and we need to have the resources to hand to help deliver. But we also know, from numerous studies, that very little information is actually retained when we deliver large amounts of it in person. We also know that lots of choices actually result is less decisions being made.

Clients are not stupid, but they don’t have, and shouldn’t need, a manual to use our businesses or get the services we are trying to deliver to them. One of the reasons why Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad are so successful is that anyone can use them from day one with the minimum of instruction. Our businesses and services should be the same way.

Being a customer can suck – but it is our job to ensure that it doesn’t!


A check list for removing suckyness from the customer experience

  • If we have have to explain things over and over how can we stop the need for explaining?

  • Do we get frustrated with our clients lack of knowledge – perhaps they are not the problem?

  • What do our clients complain about?

  • How successful are we with our recommendations?

  • Do we have compliance issues?

  • When issues arise, how could they have been avoided?

If you have any additions to this list, or have any customer service stories to share, please let me know in the comments!

You build a marketing strategy, craft your brand, have a good grasp of your online identity, lots of likes and followers on the various social media platforms, and even have developed great connections to your local media…and then you do something really stupid that could potentially blow it all.

Nobody is perfect, and we all makes mistakes – I’ve made some doozers. But there is a real difference between making mistakes, admitting those mistakes and then trying to fix the problem, as opposed to declaring war on your customers and ultimately your own business.

Lets take this little Twitter gem for starters courtesy of the Daily Mail. A customer in your restaurant overhears a waiter being rude about another restaurant owner who the customer happens to know personally. Your customer is not to thrilled with the service already, and finds this behavior to be rather off, so they Tweet about it. What you do not do, as a restaurant owner, is call up from home, ask to speak to the customer in question, curse at them down the phone, and then demand they leave. That, however, is exactly what happened. In the ensuing Twitter onslaught, the restaurant came off far worse and created a massive (the restaurant is in Texas, the Daily Mail is a UK newspaper as an example) amount of negative publicity over a customer service issue. An apology, and a courtesy meal or bottle of wine, could have turned this incident into a minor win instead of this major fail.

Next up, the auto-body shop that after using a photographer’s work on their Facebook page without permission, proceeded to threaten and abuse the photographer on their own Facebook page for all to see. Needless to say, the page went viral over Twitter and Facebook. With the almost universally courteous, and intelligent, posts from supporters of the photographer, and gangsta inspired vitriol from the body shop it could only be seen as a massive marketing failure right in front of the businesses own 500+ fans. I believe the page is now been taken down as I can no longer find it, but if anyone knows if it is still up please drop me a line so I can share the link.

The Airbnb saga, has been done to death but is instructive because even very smart people can do really dumb things. The basic outline is that Airbnb is a service that allows homeowners to rent out a room on a short term basis like a hotel. Unfortunately, when an owner returned to find their apartment trashed, and their identity stolen, Airbnb basically stuck their heads in the sand and appeared to try and discredit the victim to stop her blogging about her experience. After a major backlash, Airbnb added safeguards, an insurance policy, and tried to do the right thing by the victim. But it could be too little too late considering their model is very easy to copy and already has a number of competitors. Most people had never even heard of Airbnb until this story exploded.

Finally, something a bit closer to home, how would you, or your staff, feel about having this tweeted from your hospital by a doctor, or about your pet?

Twitter vet image blanked out

Not only is this amazingly unprofessional, but all it will take is a single person to make the connection between hospital and Twitter account (the account does not identify the hospital, or the doctor, but I have still blanked out what is there in the interests of fairness) and this will become a huge problem. I’m sure it violates the hospital’s social media policy and I’m sure you could make an argument for it also being damaging to the profession to boot!

The bottom line is that your reputation and your brand are fragile. It is very easy for it to be damaged by just forgetting the basics of customer service. Never do anything, or say anything online, that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the paper or on a billboard. This is an age where it is easier to get your message out than ever before, but it is also just as easy for everyone else. And nothing travels, or goes viral, quite as well as scandal or bad news.

Does anyone have disastrous stories they would like to share or other examples they have seen online? Share with the rest of us in the comments!

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