While on the road delivering seminars, I stopped at a large restaurant chain for breakfast.
Some of their employees were on break eating the competitor’s food at a very centrally
located table. EVERY guest that was entering, leaving, refilling a soda, or placing an order
saw an employee of this restaurant eating out of a bag adorned with a competitor’s logo.
What kind of message does that send?
Having worked 18 years for a chain restaurant, I understand how people can grow tired of
their company’s food and need a change of pace–no argument there. The startling
revelation was the fact that the manager was oblivious to the message his employees were
sending to the arriving guests–nothing like advertising for the competitor within your
own restaurant! At the very least, the employees should have eaten their meals in the back
of the restaurant after discarding the competitor’s bags.
Marketing is focused on brand impressions–how many people see your message. While
restaurants work long and hard creating a brand, all that work can easily be undone by the
actions of employees. Imagine how many brand impressions are created by thousands of
guests interacting with your people, product, and facilities every day in every unit!
Managers need to understand how their actions and the way they operate a restaurant
support or devalue the brand. When guests hear a flashy marketing message and see a
sparkling clean restaurant with happy, smiling employees on TV but experience
indifference or “blah” service in a run-down, dirty facility, many thousands of marketing
dollars have been wasted. The numerous brand impressions created to attract them have
been undone by one or two (free) impressions within the restaurant.
I personally disagree with the statement “under-promise and over-deliver” because people
simply set low goals just to say they hit them. Perhaps the marketing message might need
to be toned down until the restaurant and the people actually represent what the guest sees
on TV or in an ad. The glitz and glamour of the ad may bring in some guests short term,
but if operations and the facility aren’t outstanding, the message sent to guests is that your
restaurant is average or below average. Does your marketing effort really want to attract
more people to see how “average” the restaurant is?
Spend time and money teaching your restaurant leaders to focus on how their actions build
or destruct the brand. Invest in facility maintenance and deliver “wow” with every
employee interaction–then advertise. You’ll find you’re likely to spend less dollars
advertising as the positive word of mouth spreads. Employees leverage the marketing
dollars you spend building the brand–they can provide a greater return, or help pour
money down the drain even quicker.