On Saturday, inspired by the unusually warm weather, we headed out to cooler spots in the Bay Area to relax, unwind, and in particular, look for a tasty chicken meal--ideally, barbequed. Since neither I nor Mr. Pickett claims grilling as one of our primary talents --the last attempt resulted in heavy smoke, charred meat, and an education in the fire extinguisher--we felt seeking our meal elsewhere was a logical goal.
Destination #1 was a roadside grillhouse a friend had recommended. When are arrived, there was a long line, so we did some other errands first. Half an hour later, the line was gone but the place had shut down. "Out of food," a guy told us, happily snacking on what was apparently the last takeout order of the day. "Sorry," he said. "This place always runs out of food by 5," he added, apparently in the know.
So I'm thinking... If you have a strong enough customer base that you've got a line to get in from 11am until 5, why lose profit on the lucrative dinner crowd? Stock more food (plan ahead) so you can stay open, and if you don't have enough room, expand. You're losing customers to your competition, plus you can charge more after 5 pm, because it's dinnertime.
Destination #2 was a British styled fish and chips house we had also wanted to try. I think we probably could have flown to London faster then having a meal at this place. After placing our order, we waited nearly 40 minutes for our food to arrive, as did many of our eating companions, as we looked around. A few glimpses into the small kitchen showed some overwhelmed staff in aprons, loking stressed and covered in flour. Not inspiring. What was inspiring, however, was the shocking speed at which the takeout orders were being delivered, however, with a steady flow of customers who had called ahead, happily picking up their chicken and fish and chips. Those in the know knew to order ahead. When the food finally arrived, it was oversalted and not so tasty, readily answering the question: will we come back? No!
But I'm still thinking...if the waitress had communicated to us how long the food was going to take, we could have planned accordingly and gone for a nice beach walk while waiting for the not great food. Even... a sign to that effect would have helped. Also, how about a dedicated window and cook (segment your audience) just for the takeout people, so the onsite dining folks wouldn't have the long wait. Also, shouldn't you treat your live guests at least as well as your phone-in customers? Also, in one hour's time, not a single smile from anyone. Hmmm...
Destination #3 -Safeway. Having all but given up on the chicken dinner, we turned to Safeway as a last resort. I'm not a huge fan, but the selection and pricing are generally good, so I was excited about picking up a crispy chicken. Over at the roast chicken area, one lone dish sat under hot lights. About to add it to my shopping cart...when it appears to be partially eaten! A quick alert to one of the managers is only minimally minimally reassuring, as he doesn't seem that concerned. As Seth Myers would say..really?
So of course I get to thinking...grocery stores should have better packaging so that their prepared foods can't be so easily opened and closed, not to mention sampled and put back! If they can't monitor the quality control over their food, they should limit their service to over the counter only. Also, managers, upon seeing there is a problem, should offer customers coupons or some kind of promotion to make it right. I believe Safeway has a points system, right?
Destination #4 is Pronto Wood-Fired Pizzeria & Rotisserie. I'm listing the name and including their link, as I saved their business card, because the place rocked. A tasty whole grilled chicken, served with roasted potatoes and foccacia bread, was reasonably priced and ready in 5 minutes. Plus, our server was not only friendly, but gave us coupons, and let us know he delivered to our zip code area...ha!
So I'm naturally thinking anew...here's what work in business:
- service with a smile (it's corny but it works); maybe even start a conversation so customers know you want to engage with them.
- be speedy and include extras ( bread and potatoes). Value added.
- provide reasons for your first-time customers to come back, like coupons and other discounts.
- be organized and always be shipping!
- Segment your audience and deliver what's most relevant to them at the time.
- communicate clearly and often about your unique offerings
- offer choices
- set up systems so you can be efficient