First come, first served - Ashdale Business Consulting

First come, first served


Just over a year ago I arranged to meet up with one of my previous clients.  He now runs his own business but as a shareholder and former Director of that client he usually suggests meeting at one of their outlets.  Due to other commitments we couldn’t meet until mid-afternoon but the pub in question was open all day so no worries there.  We arrived and not surprisingly due to the time of day the place was virtually empty.  Having found a suitable table my friend went to the bar to order drinks.  And waited.

What seemed like an age there was still no sign of anyone coming to serve at the bar.  In its self this would have been bad enough however the situation was compounded by the fact that with in view of the bar area there where three members of staff sitting down having a meeting.  Had these been just regular staff on their break then it may have been excusable, but on closer inspection it seemed at least two of them were part of the management team.

It would be fair to say that once he had got their attention, as well as ordering our drinks, my friend made it clear that as an ex-Director of what is quite a large Pub Chain their lack of customer service was more than disappointing.

Needless to say, we then spent the first twenty minutes of our catch-up discussing this and how it can have a major impact on whether customers will return to an outlet when they have had this type of experience.


You had one job…

Everyone who works in hospitality, be it in a small family café through to a big city pub or fine dining restaurant, knows there are 101 things which need to be done throughout the day.  However in order to continue to be successful no matter how big or small your outlet is , you need to put the customer or more importantly the customers experience at the heart of everything you do.  So no matter what other jobs need to be done during the course of a day, health and safety issues aside, looking after the needs of your customers should always be every member of the team’s number one priority.

It’s worth noting that Michelin Guide’s team of inspectors recognise that the attentiveness of waiting on staff contribute as much to the dining experience as the food being served.


Ignore me at your peril…

When it comes to restaurants or venues which offer table service then there is no excuse not to meet and greet customers as they enter your establishment.  This first impression can set the tone for the whole experience.  It can also provide a great opportunity for the person doing the greeting to gather important information about the expectations and requirements of the customers on that occasion.

I recognise that this maybe more difficult to achieve in a busy pub at the weekend, however this can equally be accomplished by the right interaction when the customer comes up to the bar to order their drinks.

Attracting customers into your venue is often seen as one of the most difficult things to do for any business.  And whilst that might be true, a close second is to ensure that their stay with you is as enjoyable as possible.  One important way your team can do this is not to ignore or even appear to ignore any customer during their visit.  Typical examples of when customers may feel ignored include; too long a wait from ordering drinks to them being delivered to the table, long or inconsistent gaps between courses and the most common, no follow-up after food has been delivered.  A simple “is everything alright” a few minutes after each course is delivered not only makes the customers feel important, it also provides a useful opportunity to stop any minor problems escalating into something more serious.


Mistakes happen…

Having a professional and efficient team is a must when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.  That said, despite everyone’s best efforts the reality of life is that mistakes happen.  This can range from delivering the wrong meal to a table, hopefully easily fixed, right through to lost or incorrect table bookings.  The thing to remember is that it is equally important that your staff demonstrate the same level of professionalism when there are problems as they do when everything is running smoothly.  The reality is that in some situations you can’t rely on the customer to remain calm and reasonable so it is imperative that your team is able to do so.

Providing your staff with the right training should be at the heart of every business, although this is not always the case.  But for those businesses which do this I recommend they also spend some time in offering up support and guidance on how to deal with things when they go wrong and not just focus on when everything runs smoothly.


Manners maketh man…

Hiring good people has never been easy.  In fact if reports in the trade press are to be believed then this situation for the hospitality industry is likely to get worse before it gets better post-Brexit.  That said there should never be short-cuts when it comes to who you chose to work either in your kitchens or front of house.  Whilst not ideal behaviour may sometimes be tolerated by those working behind the scenes (although it shouldn’t be), when it comes to those dealing with customers on a day to day basis it’s a definite no.

It most cases waiting-on and customer service processes and procedures can be taught.  What’s more difficult to do is to train attitude.  When making new hires I always suggest operators explore this side of any prospective employee as much as they would do their ability and skill set to do any particular job.

This approach is even more important when it comes to appointing people in management or supervisory positions.  If the team leader doesn’t display the right attitude when it comes to putting the customer first, then how can you expect the rest of the team to do so?