By Dawn Lampert, account director, Envysion
As management leader Peter Drucker often said, "You can't manage what you can't measure."
Success needs to be defined and tracked before you can know if you have achieved it. And, perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the fast casual industry, where the difference between ensuring a positive customer experience and letting service slide can make or break one’s business.
Statistics from WPA Research confirm that "totally satisfied" customers contribute 2.6 times more revenue to a business than "somewhat satisfied" customers. Conversely, "totally dissatisfied" customers decrease revenue to the tune of 18 times what "totally satisfied" customers contribute to a business.
What common areas do restaurant owners and managers need to hone in on when it comes to measuring and reporting on their business’ success? Following are the top five areas upon which fast casual experience is most often judged.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best burgers in town, if the service is not up to par, many customers will not return. And, with today’s fast-paced lifestyles, younger people and those with children may be especially critical to slow service.
How are our stores performing? By analyzing the performance of employees through a customer’s eyes, managers can begin to gain an objective overview of the experience they are providing. Every aspect of a customer’s visit can be tied to specific metrics that address key concerns along the journey: Are they being dealt with courteously? Is there adequate staff to address their needs? How long are they waiting? Are they being kept informed of promotions in a timely manner? Being offered the correct discounts? Are enough fries or chips being prepped to complete orders in time? Are more cash refunds being made than should be?
Restaurants are looking to receive constant analysis on how stores are performing. Video, integrated with point-of-sale and production systems, can provide access to actionable insights via any Web-enabled device, including including footage of specific service exceptions or events where metrics are exceeded. Managers can use these clips, along with dashboards and analytics, to hone in on problem areas and seek out opportunities to cross-sell and drive growth.
2. Eliminating bottlenecks
Sometimes store layout, versus service, is the reason for longer wait times. Drinks might be delayed, food might be served cold, and dishes dropped, causing a major strain on business. Even worse, bottlenecks can pose safety issues.
Managers need to pay careful attention to how customers and employees move through the store. Is service being impacted or traffic being impeded in specific areas? Video can offer a bird’s-eye view and help drill into congested areas and physical layouts to discover where they can be eased.
What specific space requirements do restaurants need? Some experts suggest leaving at least 18 inches between each occupied chair, 42-60 inches between each square table, and 24-30 inches between corners of diagonal tables. To save space, managers can incorporate booths, diagonal seating, and deuce tables. Columns, walls, and any other partitions can also pose potential bottlenecks. Mobile apps, in-store iPads placed away from cash registers, and other technologies can help customers place orders on the go, customize them, pay electronically, or get discounts, in turn easing high traffic areas.
3. Ensuring consistent operations
From the quality of food to the overall experience, customers often go to a fast casual restaurant for the consistent experience. Are our restaurants living up to the brand? In-store visits and access to video can offer information about all aspects of operations, from opening and initial prep, which set the pace for the day, to closing, and everything in between. Managers can determine staffing needs, identify inefficiencies and make real-time adjustments remotely, when they can’t be there in person, with video. They can identify top-performing stores and employees, and those with the most opportunities for improvement. They can also isolate key areas important to running the business and use “game film” to coach employees and reward for desired outcomes.
For many customers an unsanitary environment is a deal breaker. If the tables and restrooms aren’t clean, who knows what’s happening back in the kitchen? Dirty menus and utensils are another drop-dead giveaway that a restaurant isn’t clean. Front of house and kitchen staff need to be familiar with cleaning procedures to keep stores spotless. Management can also ensure compliance by measuring specific actions and parameters toward keeping restaurants clean — from emptying trash every half hour to hour, to having a dedicated person to clean tables and common areas during peak times.
From the temperature and music being played to the vibe your employees impart, ambience often sets the tone for customer experience. While some may downplay the importance of a restaurant’s décor, it is commonly ranked on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Zagat and any other number of restaurant reviews. Research, such as that by Susskind & Chan, finds that it can be even more closely related to a high customer rating than service. Others suggest eating in a softly illuminated dining room might contribute to decreased food intake, whereas eating in a brightly illuminated one might promote more rapidly eaten meals (Stroebele & De Castro) and customers that like the music being played may stay longer.
What does your restaurant represent, and does lighting, spacing, and comfort of seating, sounds and smells, and the way employees address customers reflect it? The answers to these questions can lend to important metrics for managers to track.
A customer’s fast casual experience is more than just the food; it is the sum of a number of elements. Ensuring a consistent, positive experience involves assessing and measuring each aspect of the experience. It’s all about the small details that add up. How can you surprise and delight customers to create loyalty?Dawn Lampert is an Account Director at Envysion, a provider of video driven business intelligence software.