A note from National Restaurant Consultants owner and principal Richard Weil about hospitality and customer service.
Recently, Scott Greenberg, a speaker, writer, and business coach, and the author of The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar, published a Speakerbox blog post for Nation’s Restaurant News called “The Wealthy Franchisee: 3 Ways to Truly Be in ‘The People Business’”. It caught my attention, as this is something I often come back to when working with clients and consultants on restaurant business models and customer service: the restaurant industry is part of the hospitality industry. We are in the people business.
It can be easy to lose sight of some time, in the mix of menu planning, food prices, supply chain issues, budgeting, staffing, training, and restaurant aesthetics. These days, there is more to contend with: online reviews, social media channels, fast-moving food trends, and everyone’s ‘15 minutes of fame’. Looking at those lists, it seems there’s plenty to call a restaurant besides a “people business”, but we all know, the truth of it is, without guests coming into our restaurant spaces and enjoying their meals and their experience, none of the rest of this exists.
In the world of retail, “the customer is always right”—that’s drilled into the heads of any customer-facing business employee. At a restaurant, this is a true in a sense, except that the very purpose of a hospitality business is to please. We want happy customers, not just because it means high traffic and high profits, but because restaurants exist as centers for community and pleasure. Before we understand anything else, we have to understand this reason for being: we have to understand people, both our customers and the employees who serve them.
This is the focus of Greenberg’s blog post. “Humans are distinguished by emotion. Unlike a network of computers, a marketplace of people is directly impacted by how those people feel about things. Because feelings impact behavior. They also impact performance,” he says. When we analyze facts or data, we’re navigating “hard” territory. But feelings—and emotional responses—this is the softer side of human beings, the softer side of business. It’s harder to measure, but it is crucial to grasp because it is at the heart of hospitality, at the heart of the “people business”.
According to Greenberg, restaurants should fine-tune the “soft skills” and how they affect business operations and performance, which requires anticipating emotional responses of both team members and customers. The blog post includes a list of several key points: sell feelings to customers, accommodate employee feelings, and promote and practice resilience. Hinging business practices on these emotional strongholds might seem “soft” to a hardened business person—but that’s also the point. If we soften ourselves to the soft skills, we reach people—both employees and customers alike—where they are most human.
Our restaurant consultants are experts at operations analyses, menu development, budgeting, and sourcing. We know how to hire and train employees with the skills they need and the hard facts of business. But we always understand that a successful restaurant isn’t just a sales location. It’s a people business, and we want to help your restaurant succeed by softening to people too.