Believe me; the next paragraph has everything to do with the restaurant biz. And life.
Last week I was working on developing a project with sales training guru, Dennis Colome. Colome recently became the Vice President of Sales and Training for Izmocars and was developing a five-part-series on sales training directed towards auto dealers. Colome has been teaching dealers how to increase Internet auto sales for a decade and is the pre-eminent authority on the subject.
How does auto sales training fit with the restaurant biz? The comparisons are remarkable, but we will get into that at another time. The topic that totally parallels the culinary art of hospitality is the section entitled "First Impressions".
Think about the last time you went into an auto dealership and Bob Johnson spotted you. Remember how he quickly stubbed out his cigarette, blew the powdered sugar and stale ashes onto the showroom floor and proceeded to attempt to sell you a $60,000.00 Benz? Probably a bit exaggerated unless you where at Palmer Pruitt Pontiac before his big Internet sales change. But, it does happen. And when it happens, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn´t it?
Pan over to the last time you walked into a restaurant and nothing happened. Same taste? Of course.
First impressions are one of the key comments received from exit polls done on restaurant customers. The food can be great, the bathrooms can be spotless, but if customers experience a long wait before they are recognized when they walk through the door you have lost points and are working from a deficit position.
The same is true for the appearance of those serving them. In a recent survey on National Public Radio results showed that most people become human canvasses for tattoos and piercing by the time they are 24 years old. That is also, and this is just a guess, a very popular age to become a waiter. Now this is not to say that all waiters have tattoos and pierced body parts. And, if they do, there is nothing wrong with that. However, as an owner, you must make the decision if human artwork is part of the ambiance you want to include in your customer´s experience. Depending on the demographic make up of your customers, a hip place may call for hip waiters. A full service French restaurant may want more of a conservative staff. The decision is yours. You set the rules.
And your written policy should define what your criteria is.
Call me old fashioned, but a waitress sporting a tuna fish caked tongue stud does little for my desire to consume Ahi Tuna. That is a lasting impression that will stick with me always. I have yet to go back to that restaurant but each time I bite into a tuna sandwich I have a vision of Barbie.
Remember, the first impression is the most important you can make on a customer. Write down your expectations. Define your dress code criteria. Educate your staff on your goals. And, make sure that everyone on your staff is aware of the policy.
Defining your first impression criteria will make a better first impression on your new hires. And, that may be the most important impression of all.