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Satisfaction Guarantees Critical to Ongoing Success

Get it right the first time, if not it doesn’t hurt to apologize.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Robert J Nyman
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Budgets, deficits and all that we hear out of Washington, D.C. is enough to give anyone a headache, indigestion or deep cause for concern. This national debate on our country’s future has much of our industry concerned on what direction to take with their hotel, restaurant and future development plans. Constipation, gridlock, budgets, consumer spending on a never ending hold and incisiveness are sweeping through the hospitality industry. However a number of operations have taken some actions that are now starting to show up in guest surveys and poor operational ratings on hotel and restaurant sites, blogs and guest rants. Being somewhat forced by a slower economy and competition to lower rates, provide discounts, seasonal “specials” and different menu pricing, some operations are not getting high marks for guest satisfaction. Are we so concerned with costs that we have lost sight of the guest and their need to be serviced, satisfied and thanked?

Guests notice when hotels and restaurant change the normal expected things about their operations; put out less or no “free” snacks at cocktail hour, eliminate amenities and services, etc. with no explanation or forethought. Keep in mind, it is easier to please a guest while in the restaurant or hotel, than to potentially offer a special deal if they will come back after a poor guest experience. This apparent lack of attention to detail is being noticed and chronicled in our ever fast paced society as the potential for why some operations will succeed and some will not.

Our job is to make the guest happy; if you’re trying to continue to cut costs by taking things away and not offering something else in return, guests will continue to notice and possibly look elsewhere to be satisfied, taking their business with them. An analyst friend some time ago coined the term in order to survive and prosper, “you need to eat some else’s lunch!”

Recently, a business writer called to talk about the differences in a group of restaurants who were all going after the same customer demographic and wanted to know if I could differentiate the competitive set for him. We reviewed all the restaurants, their menus, on-going special programs or price fixed menus, beverage lists, décor and styling, entertainment, service standards and pricing.
  • Three of the four restaurants had over the last year obviously reflected on their offerings and revamped their menus, wine lists, specials programs; each taking a different approach to their perceived guest demographic.

  • Two of the restaurants started aggressive bar & lounge food and beverage special offerings to appeal to a broader customer base and hopefully more frequency and satisfy cost minded guests.
  • One of the restaurant concepts in particular also instituted a “bounce-back” program on the receipt that offered the guest a discount off of their next visit if they go online and rate their current dining experience.

  • The third restaurant put forth an aggressively priced wine tasting program, to reward frequent guests and hopefully bring in new customers.

  • The fourth restaurant left basically everything as it was since in their heyday they were the concept leader in their segment. But over the last six months or so, they have dramatically changed their entertainment policy, service levels have been lowered, wine by the glass pricing increased, daily specials which were their hallmark, substantially trimmed and the esprit de corps of the operation seems to be waning. When talking with one of the regular staff members and asking about the current situation, she tried all she could to restrain her frustration, bemoaning the drop-off in business and management’s lack of concern to embrace the current economic downturn and to please the guest.

  • The following day I spoke with a client about their operation, went over my findings and discussion with the reporter and what our client could be doing further to enhance their restaurants. They had already incorporated many of the adjustments previously mentioned, but felt they were missing a final piece to the program. Their revised menus were trending very well, the bar menu and drink program had boosted the lounge business substantially, the price fix menus were a big hit with early dinners and the weekly entertainment program had increased business on slow nights too. We recommended they work with the staff to come up with a guest satisfaction guarantee that all staff members would be involved with working towards. We dubbed the program, “Get it right the first time, if not it doesn’t hurt to apologize and make the situation right, on the spot.”

  • Upon arrival, each guest is greeted and asked for their name, and then each person who touches the table addresses the guest with their name, from the manager, supervisor, server, runner and bus person too.
  • Every item brought and served at the table is announced as to what it is and also that the guest is satisfied with the item, whether it be a drink or food item.

  • The manager or supervisor must approach the table within 3 minutes of the food being served and also speak directly to all the guests, not just a “how is your food” simple comment, but offering anything else they might need at that time, then they are followed up by the server just to make sure.

  • If there is an issue with any item, it is immediately replaced or the guest gets to chose what they would like instead. The manager then follows up with a choice of a glass of wine, appetizer for two or entrée of their choice gift certificate for the guest to return and the manager’s personal contact info for their return visit, and offers a complimentary shared dessert for the table.
All guest interactions are reviewed first by the management team and then discussed as a learning experience with the entire front and back of the house team the following day so they all can learn from each situation.

In today’s world, it pays to get it right the first time, if not it doesn’t hurt to apologize – otherwise someone will be eating your lunch!

Robert Nyman    Robert J Nyman
Nyman Group

Bio: As President of The Nyman Group, Robert J. Nyman steers the company along its course with agility and experience. He began his career in a family-owned liquor store and delicatessen, but really began to “cut his teeth” in the industry with Restaurant Associates, where he served as Director of Operations in the airport division, a position which he held for six ...
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RE: Satisfaction Guarantees Critical to Ongoing Success article link
I love reading articles about service, this one included. After I read the four points again, I was wondering where I had heard or read those points before. Then it came to me. All those points that you and the staff came up with for “the guest satisfaction guarantee' program was what good service was thirty or so years ago.

All four points; the guests' name being forwarded, the “here is your filet with burgundy sauce..., the manager coming over to greet, meet, then retreat and the point where if something isn't up to “the guests” standards, it will be by the time they leave. That's what good service was all about.

You can ask almost anyone anywhere and they will tell you service isn't what it used to be. And it isn't, compared to thirty, forty years ago, service today is appalling. Instead of spending money on all those gimmicks (some do work), try spending money on training the staff (college students included), from knowing every ingredient of every item on the menu to knowing 30 basic drinks, to knowing about wine, to understanding the concept of teamwork and working pro-actively instead of re-actively. And to keep on training them, why should training stop? It should be continuous.

Maybe start by not allowing any staff to have a cell phone on them during the entire shift, except on breaks.

And sure, a lot of the workforce will most likely leave, well, the bad ones will, they don't want to 'work'. Your good employees will stay, work hard and appreciate the time and effort you the manager put in to make sure they had the tools, the self-confidence and the respect to do, not a good job, but a great job.

Thank you very much for your time.

Posted by: David Jones
Email: courteousactions@gmail.com

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