I always wonder which comes first: Wear, tear, soil, along with a lowering of daily standards or a tired soul and lack of enthusiasm. Losing the frisk in your step, or the smile on your face, or wearing a uniform that should have been replaced months ago is a sure sign that the downward spiral has replaced the pride of professional, profitable perception. But does a staff watch with an inquisitive eye and see what management doesn’t see nor does management just get overwhelmed with the weaknesses within their staff and slowly step to the side of the weak?
I was shocked on a few recent visits – in separate locations – to observe how rapidly a chain of restaurants which once was a stellar concept can begin a downward spiral and apparently not recover from the fall. Once a gleaming star in concept, execution, cleanliness, style and staff, many of the locations of this chain are in need of a facelift while the staff is in need of an enthusiasm injection.
As every restaurant continually works to keep their concept fresh and ahead of the competition, we have to realize that we cannot stand on our past laurels as we are only as good as out last meal. On a recent daytrip to a storybook town on California’s central coast the restaurant of which I write was strewn with stickiness, soiled walls, a smoke discolored dining room ceiling and a pastry case that would have made any Bronx deli owner fire his staff and thinking about closing his doors.
Once filled with Panini sandwiches that could have easily graced the pages of Sunset or Gourmet, the luncheon fare was now slipped into a plastic Glad bag similar to those playing host to Johnny’s Tuna Fish sandwich at a locker in grade school. The platters and plates that once proudly held breakfast rolls, muffins and scones had been replaced with baking trays covered in tin foil sporting more wrinkles than old Aunt Betty’s left hand and a lot more week old crumbs.
As I stood in line patiently awaiting a glass of ice tea I listened as the woman in front of me asked if the coffee cake she had ordered was ready. She was told it was ready, but unfortunately, there were no boxes to place it in. The counter person would gladly wrap it in plastic wrap she was told. As she explained it was for a memorial service, she received a blank stare in return.
The name of the chain matters not. I am not here to broadcast inefficiencies of those who have seen their star rise and fall in what seems like a lifetime of nano seconds. The point is that no matter who we think we are, the future may hold a completely different profile for us.
There are certain signs we as owners need to watch for. The first erosion of standards is a sign that somebody isn’t doing their job. It may only be little things at first. And, they may be on the road to being corrected. Yet, the customer who leaves with a vision of a coffee cake wrapped in plastic wrap, or a baking tray covered in tin foil, or a sandwich, dry from age, wrapped in a plastic bag, may not be back. And once you lose one customer because of the small things that contribute to ambiance, style and perception, it is only a matter of time before other inefficiencies follow.
Pay attention to the attention others are supposed to pay. You can’t rely on others to have the same vision and standards as you do all of the time. When you see something beginning to slip, shore it up, along with the person responsible for it.
It’s hard to make it in this business. Once you do, don’t lose it because someone isn’t paying attention.