There are a lot of food establishments closing down in our area. Most of the closings are being blamed on the poor economy. I don’t agree that this is the only factor.
After writing hundreds of consumer columns through the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are 3 very important factors that can make it or break it for a food establishment….(1) Customer Service (2) Cleanliness and (3) Professional Management.
A few weeks ago, my husband observed a disgusting and potentially harmful incident at a local ice cream parlor. The young server, between customers, decided to fix herself a treat. She scooped out some ice cream and started eating it. Then she went back and scooped out some more and with her used plastic spoon, she scraped additional ice cream off the scooper. My husband also observed money being handled and then food being served with no hand washing or use of clean gloves. After my husband described what he observed, I made the decision to go into the ice cream parlor and talk to the manager. I explained to him how he would be in huge trouble if the health department witnessed the unsanitary actions of his employees. He thanked me for coming in and talking to him. He promised to talk to his staff immediately.
I can’t understand why a restaurant would put a sloppy looking, non-communicative person up front to greet the customers. This is the first impression that your customers make of your establishment. They can easily walk out the door and eat somewhere else. I believe that customer service skills need to be taught to every staff member in a restaurant who has any contact with a customer right down to the bus boy/girl! No exceptions!! Customers may forgive you for a less than wonderful meal but they will NOT forget poor customer service!
Dirty bathrooms in restaurants will turn customers off completely. If a bathroom is filthy, I am going to wonder about the kitchen where my food is being prepared. Dirty chairs and booths indicate to me that the staff has not been properly trained on cleaning the eating areas.
Last but not least…
Managers need to be hands on…I have witnessed managers standing there watching situations that needed their intervention only to see them walk away, choosing not to get involved. The worst was an understaffed restaurant, where a manager refused to roll up his sleeves and get to work. A restaurant without a hands on manager is like a car racing down a highway without a driver…Your staff, like the car can’t make it without you!
Just a few thoughts about an industry that has a 1 in 4 chance of failing in the first year!