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Can I have a side of customer service, please?

As our fast-paced world finds us looking for options to speed up processes, we have implemented systems and products designed to make our lives easier. I’m not just talking about technology replacing maids like Rosie the Robot on the Jetsons, or the phone system replacing a human when you’re trying to call your bank that leaves you pressing 1 to send you to cyber-nowhere.  I’m referring to the dying art of customer service in the restaurant industry.

I can understand the lack of the personal touch in fast-food restaurants. My expectations are inherently low. I drive through. I place my order from a minimum wage teenager. And my only hope is that my order is correct. What a lovely surprise when I go to Chick-Fil-A and they actually smile and say, “My Pleasure”! Not “You’re welcome”. No “Thank you”. It is customary for Dan Cathy’s associates to let every one of their guests know that it was their pleasure to serve them.  When a guest walks into a Moe’s they are enthusiastically greeted with a hearty “Welcome to Moe’s”!

These are examples of a fast food and fast casual restaurant who haven’t forgotten to acknowledge their guests. And notice I call them guests, not customers. Guests are people that you invite into your home, and you would naturally treat them better. You take pride in your restaurant. Your place is cleaner, your employees are friendlier, and you truly care about your guests and the impression you leave with them. With customers, you will serve and they move along. Which experience is more memorable?

But what happened to the customer service in a full service restaurant?  I recently met with an advertising representative who was trying to sell me on a texting platform that would replace servers and extra bartenders. He added that when bars are so busy that people can’t get the attention of a bartender, they can text their drink order that will then be sent to a special printer. One person will be designated to watch that printer for orders to appear. Isn’t that great? No! If your restaurant or bar is so busy that you feel you need to implement a texting program solely to fill customers’ orders, you don’t have a shortage of technology, you have a shortage of staff!  How many guests walk out the door because of your lack of attention and customer service? If you can designate one person to watch a printer, get him on the floor taking orders! And when was the last time you were actually greeted at the door by a hostess at a full service restaurant? Remember restaurateurs, these are your Directors of First Impressions.  If I wanted to greet myself, seat myself, and hunt down my own beverages, I would have gone to a fast casual restaurant and saved about 30%. But I came to full service for the “service”. Where did it go?

Can we make a pact to get back to creating memorable experiences? And can I have a side of customer service, please?

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