Restaurant Finance Monitor
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“Culture” is an overworked term in the restaurant/hospitality business.  Every operator strives to create an exemplary corporate culture. Hard as it is to define, Danny Meyer  and Howard Schultz have demonstrated how far a great culture can take you. It is not the coffee, good as it is, that has allowed Starbucks to build 20,000 profitable stores worldwide. My daily visit to Starbucks is my morning social life. “Hi Roger, your usual venti soy latte’, no foam?”, or ”did you get a haircut?”, or “haven’t seen you in a little while, been away?”

My wife and daughter think I’m getting a little (or a lot) eccentric. Often, after a service person responds with a “no problem” after I thank them,  I take a minute (if they seem friendly) to suggest that something like “my pleasure” is a lot more hospitable or what I might call charming.  Of course it’s not a problem, because  it’s their job, after all. I feel like I’m doing them a favor, mentoring them if you like, and it costs me nothing. I say it with a smile, tell them I am only taking the time because they seem like they care. Almost all the time they seem to appreciate it, and usually respond, on my next visit, with “my pleasure” and a smile. I tell my wife and daughter that they can call me a little crazy, if they like.

Which leads me to my visit this morning to Starbucks. The expeditor at the pickup counter, who Starbucks now has in place to sort out the digital/pickup orders from the in-store ordering, handed me my drink, and I thanked him. He said “my pleasure”. I complimented on that response, and he said that it was natural for him because he also works at Chick Fil A.

I’ve never met or spoken to the management of Chick Fil A but I have visited their stores and the experience is always a good one. Last I read they were doing $5M a copy in a six day week. That compares pretty well to McDonald’s, good as they are these days, doing 40% less than that over seven days. Maybe there really is something about a great corporate culture, taking the time to build something as simple as a warm salutation into the training process.

LET’S CHANGE THE WORLD TOGETHER !  There’s nothing obnoxious about “no problem”. However, we would be doing our employees, many of whom are just beginning their working lives, a great long term service if we suggest a variety of more personal, hospitable, even charming responses. “My Pleasure”, “Always Nice to See You”, “You’re Very Welcome”, “Any Time”, “Come See US Again”, or down south “Y’all Come See Us Again, Y’Hear?” are just a few suggestions.

There’s a reason that the customer experience at Chick Fil A and Starbucks is a cut above almost all of the competition, and the sales follow. The above does not happen by accident.

Roger Lipton