When it comes to driving growth in your restaurant, you may find yourself asking a lot of chicken-and-egg questions. Do you need increased sales before adding a new concept? Or do you add a new concept so that you can increase market share? Do you increase marketing spend to drive sales? Or do you focus on sales so that you can increase marketing spend?
The good news is, there's one linear approach that always yields bottom-line results. When you focus on quality, sales will follow. Two areas where quality can really drive sales are your front-line staff and your approach to process development and training. But what does quality really look like in these two areas, and how can you build it? I'll outline a few approaches and introduce you to Pal's Sudden Service, a QSR that has gotten it right.
A better front line
Your hourly employees are the front line of your business. They interact with customers more than any other employee group, so if they deliver a less-than-stellar first impression, you stand to lose a lot of repeat business.
According to a Right Now and Harris Interactive study, 82 percent of Americans have stopped doing business with a brand after just one bad customer service experience. When customers have the one-and-done mentality, you can't afford to have anything less than top-quality employees representing your restaurant.
But recognizing quality can be easier said than done.
When sifting through a pile of applications, you may be inclined to look only at those with previous restaurant experience, operating under the notion that if the applicant has the right experience he/she will fit your business. But maybe that applicant is sticking with QSR, for example, because it's all he/she has ever known, not because it's the right-fit job. Maybe an applicant with experience in retail has the characteristics that separate a quality hire from a future ex-employee.
The answer to finding quality employees lies in looking past the basic information on an application and assessing applicants for their behavioral preferences.
By assessing applicants for their behavioral preferences as part of your online application process, you can find out if an applicant has the energy to provide a great impression at the drive-thru, the propensity for customer service to work the cash register or the trustworthiness to cover the late shift.
Employees who naturally fit their positions will be more engaged in their work, stick around longer and provide better customer service. And it's no coincidence that when customer service scores go up, so do sales.
A better process
Loading your front line up with top-quality employees is a critical first step to boosting customer service and growing sales. But to keep the customers smiling, your processes have to be better than par.
Think of it this way: welcoming cashiers can lessen customers' frustration over a long wait, but they can't erase it. In the same way, a friendly face and attitude at the drive-thru may be forgotten if the customer drives away and finds an incorrect order later.
Start by taking a good, hard look at your processes. Are they the most efficient way to accomplish tasks, or are you doing things this way because it's how it's always been done? If there are things you'd like to change about your processes, think of a grid with the X axis showing the degree of impact the change could have and the Y axis showing how difficult it would be to change the process. Everything that lives in the high-impact, easy-to-change quadrant should be your first priority.
Once you've thought through your processes, look at your staff and ask yourself if you're expecting enough from your front line. If you've assessed each hire for fit, the chances are that your employees can deliver more than you're asking.
There are many resources at your disposal to help you streamline your processes and improve employee training. But when it comes to the industry, it may be best to take advantage of the advances of one of your peers: Pal's Sudden Service.
Pal's, a 23-location QSR in Virginia and Tennessee, was experiencing industry-average turnover around 100 percent and was seeing mistakes and shrinkage starting to add up on the bottom line. By revamping its approach to hiring, training and process develop, the company now sees:
- Employee turnover that sits at 43 percent,
- Service speeds that are four times faster than competitors,
- Order accuracy that is at least 10 times better than the closest competitor, and
- Just one complaint per 3,500 orders – 10 times better than the competition.
Pal's efforts were nationally recognized with a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, not to mention 31 consecutive years of sales and market share growth. To help fellow restaurant owners see the same results, Pal's established the Pal's Business Excellence Institute that outlines best practice approaches to process development and training and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at quality at work.
Whether you reach out to a partner, like Pal's, or push the quality bar higher on your own, establishing processes that will deliver consistent results sets you up for success and getting your employees on board to execute your approach on a daily basis can turn a first-time customer into repeat business.
If you find yourself wondering where to focus your energy to boost your bottom line, focus on the quality of your front line and your approach to process development first and worry about the rest of the eggs after you've boosted sales.
Jason Hamilton serves as Snagajob’s vice president of product and marketing. In this role, he is responsible for creating products that instantly connect workers and employers. He also leads Snagajob's marketing strategies – from customer acquisition and retention to marketplace development and growth. Oh, and he had a cameo in a Bollywood film.