Moments of Truth
To ensure a successful Hospitality business you need to work on your moments of Truth.
To do this you need to work on the following five things:
Food and Drink
This is the umbrella point for all of the other items on the list, when working on the atmosphere, food and drink, service and décor all need you to be thinking about the brand at all times. From your sign on the outside of your business to your menus to the signs on your toilets, the way your staff are dressed, to the décor to the service style, your brand is communicated unconsciously to your customer in 1000's of different ways.
A friend of mine Giuseppe D'Anna who owns a Brand Management and PR company as well as a beautiful Art Gallery, works on the brand of his clients in the hospitality industry, he works on creating a high end brand that communicates quality to his clients customers. Giuseppe loves the theory of the Third Place and feels that the customer will have a much better experience if the brand is right. Having the correct logo and brochures, menus, signs, hotel welcome packs, in room information packs, etc etc communicates the quality of the business. You have to follow this all the way through your business and live it, every day, ask yourself are you giving your customers the right messages all day every day?
Your staff uniforms are very important to how your business is perceived, they need to be clean and ironed, some hotels take this upon themselves to do laundry for their staff so that they can control this. If you enter a 5* Hotel you will expect the concierge to be wearing a very smart outfit that is in keeping with the brand of the hotel, the receptionist needs to be wearing a suit or part thereof and the waiting staff need to be wearing at least a smart shirt/blouse and smart trousers/skirt. If you were entering a bed and breakfast establishment you would not feel comfortable if the staff were dressed formally, you would expect casual clothes like jeans to be worn.
Everything you choose needs to ooze your brand, if your opening a new business, decide where you want to be in the market and choose everything you do to fit.
Brand Exercise for diagnosis or creation of a brand:
If you are starting a hospitality business or you want to review your business, try this to make sure your brand speaks consistently to your customers
Write down all the things you want that business to do or what it does, what kind of food is served, what kind of service do you have, what the brand looks like what the menu looks like, everything that is in your vision or is in place you need to write down. Now look at each item individually and question what kind of messages each item on your list gives your customer, if you want casual service but have an A La Carte menu is something that doesn't fit? Everything in your brand needs to be sending the same kind of messages to your customers. Ask as many people you know as possible to help you with this and value the feedback especially the negative.
Google Definition of Atmosphere"
the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or creative work."the hotel has won commendations for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere"synonyms: ambience, aura, climate, air, mood, feel, feeling, character, tone, overtone, undertone, tenor, spirit, quality, aspect, element, undercurrent, flavour, colour, colouring, look, impression, suggestion, emanation;"
The atmosphere is created by a number of factors including brand, service, cleanliness and décor. As you can see from the definition above the atmosphere is a combination of many things, just a feeling that you get, a good atmosphere starts at the top, from an owner or manager who cares about their customers experience and trains their staff to care and spot the little things that need doing all the time. The piece of tissue on the floor that needs picking up or the smile as you walk in the door.
The smell of your venue is one of the key first impressions, in a restaurant warming bread before serving creates a yummy feel and doesn't take a moment. Ensure your kitchen has good ventilation and that you turn it on, my sister Kim runs a restaurant called Mario's Place with her husband Mario. Mario's got a bad review on Trip Advisor where they complained about the"smell of frying food" even though the reviewer gave them 4 Stars. If they had happened to get anything else wrong that day the reviewer would not have been so nice.
Make sure you have a clean environment that smells great and people will feel comfortable. There is nothing worse than going into a venue with sticky tables, or dirty toilets, this reflects the cleanliness of the kitchen and if always dirty will tell the customer unconsciously that at some point they will get sick eating your food.
Food and Drink
Food is one of the reasons that people come to you, it's lunchtime, they are hungry and something has made them come to your establishment.
Being in the hospitality industry you will know that quality food and drink is essential for a successful business, the type of food you serve is part of your brand, if you offer a steak that is expensive for the area, make sure you have sourced the best meat you can, and you have the best Chef in the area, don't underestimate the power of people's experience, some of the people who eat in restaurants also run other restaurants, you will never know who your customer is and who will be the next person to give you a rubbish review.
Always ask for feedback about what you are serving because this will make sure you know exactly when the problems come up and you can fix these issues quickly. I once forgot to ask if everything was OK with a meal I served, only to find out that after the customer had consumed everything on their plate, he then said that he was waiting for me to ask him if his food was OK so he could tell me it wasn't. Make sure you ask so you give yourself the opportunity to correct anything that is a problem before the end of a meal.
Nando's do this well, they have a wooden chicken on a stick placed on the table when they ask you if you have enjoyed your meal they take the wooden chicken away. Be careful though, this is a fast paced eating place, if you did this in a high class restaurant and made it as obvious you would be giving the wrong messages. Choose your brand and build your food style in line with the brand or vise versa.
Making sure you communicate your brand through service is all about training your staff to care. You need to create a good atmosphere within your staff group before any customers step through your door. Look after your staff, you need to make sure that this atmosphere starts with your staff not with your customers, the customers will pick up on this vibe the moment they step through your door and feel more at home.
Having naturally smiley caring staff in your venue is key to the success of your business. Don't accept anything less than this attitude from your staff, even if you have to go through 10 waitresses to get the right one! In the UK the service industry is unusual, people don' have a naturally subservient way like for example people in Thailand or the Philippines. I used to find this very frustrating when travelling a lot, people in the UK generally do not enjoy serving people which is why staff training is so important, and employing people with the right attitude is imperative.
Brands like Starbucks and McDonalds have great training schemes, the training that the staff have in these kind of businesses are helping to improve the UK's service industry. Before you trust your staff directly serving any customer, make sure they have at least a few hours training from a more experienced good staff member. You have to change your method of service to suit your brand, for example my history in part is working on super yachts, one which was called M/Y Lionheart. I spent 3 years delivering 6 Star service, being trained to have everything immaculate, making sure that everything was no more than perfect. I even took great pride in cleaning things with cotton buds, that was when I realised it was time to leave and get back to the real world. When you have had this kind of experiences you have to tone this down when you change the environment. When I help out in my sisters restaurant Marios Place where the staff wear jeans and the service is friendly I have to change my method. When I worked on Lionheart I was trained not to ask personal questions and to be seen and not heared, in Marios Place I am expected to ask how people are, my sister prides herself of being part of the local community, someone with an opinion that people are drawn to.
Choose your brand and build your service style in line with the brand.
Décor and Furniture
Keep it clean and keep it maintained, split seats and chairs with three legs are not a good look. A lick of paint costs very little in materials and just using care and attention will keep you on track. Beware, when you are in a premises every day it is very easy to step over the cracks when it comes to maintenance, ask you friends and customers to keep you informed if you need maintanance to make sure you don't miss anything if you work in your business everyday. Reupholstery and replacing furniture will hurt your cash flow less if you do little and often.
You have to choose the décor and furniture very carefully to fit within the people you are inviting into your business, the interior is something that I have a lot of experience in, being MD at ChairsGB and now Owner / MD at Harp Commercial Interiors. I have spent years studying the success and failure of businesses, the choice you make in this area can make or break a business. If you choose posh expensive furniture and put it into a pub on an estate where most people are on the breadline it will not work. If you choose old fashioned or cheap furniture and try and serve posh food, again, people will get mixed messages. You have to work on sending one message to the customer throughout their experience.
If you wanted a quick meal, what does the restaurant look like that you are looking for. Chairs with hard seats and easy to clean table tops right?. You wouldn't go into a posh restaurant with nice leather chairs and table cloths and expect a quick meal, the the décor communicates the type of restaurant from the outside.
Your lighting needs to match your decor, funky lights and traditional wallpaper is a big no no! Choose your brand, go with that brand and try not to buy things because you like them but becuase they fit with it. Getting this brand right throughout your business will help to create more Moments of Truth and draw people into your business.