Dan Barash Online

Enhancing the customer experience
June 9, 2009, 12:28 pm
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Valerie Killifer Senior editor

08 Jun 2009


When it comes to providing an overall customer experience, fast casual restaurants seem to have the market covered. After all, the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry has for several years given consumers an overall dining out experience they can’t get anywhere else.

This week, we wanted to give our readers some tips on ways they could improve customer service. What we found isn’t new, but here are three brands doing each one well.
1. Keeping it clean: The founders of Italian concept Vapiano put as much thought and effort into the restaurant’s bathroom design as they did the rest of the facility. Bathroom features include contemporary-style bowl sinks, cushioned chairs and up-to-date lighting and sink fixtures.

Herb Heiserman, principal of Bethesda, Md.-based design firm The Heiserman Group, said Vapiano’s leaders wanted to carry the brand’s high-end look and feel to every extension of the restaurant, including the restrooms.

While design is important, the little things matter too. We all have stories of visiting restaurant restrooms that left a lot to be desired and although much has been said and written about the importance of bathroom cleanliness, this fact can’t be stressed enough.

“Operators who don’t invest in maintaining clean, hygienic washrooms are missing out on a big opportunity to win and keep those customers,” said Ian West, category director for washroom business with Neenah, Wis.-based SCA Tissue North America.
“You are providing a total experience to your customer. From the time they walk in to the time they walk out, they are looking around and making judgments on your facility,” West said. “And that washroom is very much a part of that judgment process.”
According to an SCA Tissue survey, 58 percent of guests say overflowing toilets would prevent them from returning to an eating establishment. Another 57 percent said unpleasant odors would keep them from revisiting an establishment.

A small investment in an automatic air freshener could pay a big return in regard to the message it sends to consumers. So does the display of a bathroom-maintenance checklist initialed by employees after each inspection.

2. Meet and greet: The first thing guests hear when they walk into a Moe’s Southwest Grill is the infamous “Welcome to Moe’s” greeting.

Paul Damico, president of Moe’s Southwest Grill, said the guest experience at Moe’s is largely dependent on the interaction between the guest, and and it all begins with “Welcome to Moe’s.”

“Not only does the greeting immediately engage the guest, but it also offers a burst of energy and fun which is fundamental to the Moe’s experience,” he said. “The guest feels acknowledged and appreciated by every member of the crew and is able to interact with each one personally as he or she moves down the line. Our customers notice it, enjoy it and expect it; and when they do not hear it, they’re disappointed.”

While few fast casuals offer the same type of greeting that Moe’s does, they could benefit from some type of welcome.


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