Two restaurant owners, John and Michael are walking down the street. John segues from the conversation about the economy into family.
“Michael, how’s your daughter Melissa?” he asks.
“Melissa. You had to ask about Melissa. In August she decided not to marry Barry, the dentist and ran away with my head waiter, Jerome. She lost a great catch and I lost a great waiter.” Michael responded.
“I am so sorry to hear that. You must be crushed.” John said.
“Not really. In September her brother, William decides he is going to borrow the Mercedes, without permission and go for a joy ride. He hit a tree, ruined the car, and was in the hospital for ten days. My health insurance lapsed by one day.” Michael said.
“Oh, my God, what a tragedy.” John said.
“Well, kinda. But last week I found out Janie was having an affair with the Sous Chef. Thirty-two years of marriage and the wife falls in love with the Sous chef.” Said Michael, adding, “Hell, I am at least a head chef. I can’t fire the chef, so the wife moved out and the chef shows up for work everyday but he never yells anymore.”
“Michael, stop it, you’re bringing me to tears. Dear God, what could be worse?” John asked.
“November,” said Michael, “Yes, November.”
Now that story has been circulating in one rendition or another for decades. After 9-11 it made its mark as many owners and employees were either, depressed, demoralized, or suicidal with the possibility of financial demise facing them head on. That of course doe little to soothe the wounds we are all facing or the decline in revenue that keeps us tossing and turning at night.
However, if you want to make sure that your check book, and your dining room, never comes back to life, make sure your staff is depressed, your atmosphere is morbid and you have little enthusiasm for the customer. Ironically, the first people we take our frustrations out on are our customers.
Unlike the guy who goes home after a miserable day at the office and yells at his wife and kids, restaurant owners have the benefit of being able to snap at those actually paying for their product. And fortunately or not one of the products we sell is enthusiastic hospitality and warm welcome.
The reason I am such an avid supporter of continual customer care and professionalism is because I have experienced the pain of operating a losing restaurant while forgetting about the principles of good customer service. One of the most important talents you can develop in your staff and yourself is to be able to present the perception everything is going well even though you are facing, what Michael claims to be November.
You can establish this in a number of ways. First, don’t get lazy in your pre shift meetings. Continue to have contest for the most desserts, or bottles of wine sold.
Address the problem with your staff head on. Don’t hesitate to tell them to look happier or to cheer up. Explain the importance of an enjoyable demeanor. And, most importantly, become part of the team and don’t forget they are going through the same financial crisis you are experiencing on a different scale.
If you use some of the steps and a few others that are just common sense techniques to keeping your customers happy, you might enjoy November.