There are many tactics successful fast-casual restaurants use to distinguish their locations from competitors, including state-of-the-art technology designed to save time, strategic marketing to reach customers across touchpoints, and menu innovation to keep guests interested in your product. While these are essential to running a business in today’s environment, they are not especially unique and won’t make the consistent impact on your bottom line that you’re after.
To truly move the needle, do what many fast-casual restaurants have overlooked in today’s fast-paced environment: the customer experience. In an era of on-the-go lifestyles and quick in-and-out service, putting extra effort towards guests takes a back seat to racing toward the next task.
Sometimes going back to the basics is just what a business needs to stand out in a crowded field. Marketing and technology will surely build brand awareness and bring convenience to customers, but creating an unmatched customer experience is what will keep those customers coming back and sharing every welcoming interaction with other potential customers.
What to Look for in Franchisors
Identify the Right Brands Early On
When you begin exploring potential franchisors to partner with, you’ll want to make sure you’re aligned with their brand’s approach to customer service.
Remember, a brand’s customer service reputation is integral to establishing long-lasting customers, so you want to be certain the brand you’re investing in is committed to choosing the right franchisees to build and maintain that reputation.
One way to do this early on is by analyzing the questions they ask you. Do they dig deep into your values and your approach to customer service? Are you being asked about your commitment to the community, and how you plan to engrain your business locally?
Are They Committed to Your Success?
As you get further into your selection process, make sure that any potential franchisors you are considering will be dedicated to empowering you to run the most profitable business possible.
Do they provide ample customer service training sessions? Are continued education courses on customer experience best practices available? Do they provide you with resources dedicated to online reputation management? Do they provide a Franchise Business Consultant and/or an internal customer relations representative?
Providing you with the right resources to build a business that is committed to customer service should be a top priority for potential partners, so make sure you ascertain that commitment ahead of making your investment.
Implementing Best Practices After Opening
Educate Your Employees
Teaching employees the importance of customer service and how to approach it early on will get them off to a strong start. Customer service is much more than smiling and greeting guests. It is making each person’s experience a positive and memorable one, whether that means kindly answering questions, addressing concerns, educating customers on products or services, and getting to know your customers on a personal level.
Things as simple as positive speaking, gestures and body language make staff members appear approachable. If a customer walks in and sees an employee sulking or complaining to another coworker, they are not as likely to approach said worker – and ultimately could ruin the entire experience for the customer.
It may sound elementary, but it is absolutely crucial to treat each guest with respect and as a priority, which is why one of the most important skills a franchisee can teach their staff is patience. Customers will appreciate an employee that helps them with any inquiry, no matter how large or small, and will be more likely to give repeat business if interactions with staff are positive.
Implement Daily Continuous Training
It has been proven time and time again that good habits fade over time, so continuous training on effective customer service practices is essential. Refreshing the staff on these tactics on a regular basis can keep the previously stated tips top of mind.
For example, if you run a fast-casual restaurant, keep some kind of signage behind the counter in employees’ line of sight reminding them to smile. The sign could also include a few greeting phrases. You can also keep posters around the workspace showcasing the company’s values and reminding employees why they are there: to serve a purpose and provide exceptional hospitality.
It can also be effective to warm-up each employee at the start of a shift. Not only can management get them up to speed on daily promotions and other information, they can also give them a new customer service tip each day.
Finally, address issues with your staff head-on. If an employee has been struggling to maintain your customer service standards, let them know.
Of course, hospitality and customer service are the bedrocks of any business, and they are paramount in the dining segment. Implementing customer service excellence into the everyday practices of your franchise will not only make employees stronger assets, it will improve the reputation of your business locally and drive new and repeat business – setting you apart from your competition.
Ed Yancey, director of franchising for Cleveland Avenue, parent company of PizzaRev, brings more than 20 years of franchising experience to PizzaRev. PizzaRev is a “build-your-own” fast-casual pizza concept that has revolutionized the way America eats its favorite food. They accomplish this by allowing guests to watch their personal-sized pizza being crafted right before their eyes, then firing it in their custom-built 900 degree, stone-bed oven.