Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"How Was Everything?"

How many times have you heard those words from a company you were doing business with? How many times have you wondered if they really care, or if those are just words that the employees are trained to say?

I thought of this because of an experience my wife and I had the other day. We were on a driving trip, and stopped in for a meal into one of our favorite waitress-service restaurants that you often times see just off major highways. We sat down early in the evening in a moderately crowded dining room, and placed our orders. After doing so, we found out that they were out of both of the items that we ordered. They were also out of the featured item, and were also out of the featured dessert. While it didn’t bother us, what got me was what happened when we were paying the bill at the cash register. The employee manning the register asked me, “How was everything?” In a very polite way, I told her, “Well, not so good. The kitchen was out of what we wanted to eat.” What surprised me was her reaction. She looked absolutely stunned, and then turned to finish the transaction. She didn’t say a word to me about my comment.

Now, I’ve owned a restaurant, I've worked in food industry, and have an enormous amount of appreciation for those who work in this very tough and demanding part of our economy. But what got me was that the chain that runs this restaurant, did just such a poor job of training their people that the girl at the register didn’t know what to say. If you aren’t going to give your employees the tools to deal with a simple statement, if you’re not going to train them about what you say when someone says something other “fantastic,” then all of the team-building exercises, all of the mantra’s of providing exceptional service, is just a bunch of words that mean nothing.

I’ve also been following an interesting blog in the NY Times that is written by a first-time restaurateur, Bruce Buschel. For more inside info on the entrepreneurial journey of someone opening a seafood restaurant, take a look at The Startup Chronicle.

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