Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Customer Service Tips from a Suburban Detroit Restaurant

In a recent post, I wrote about my friend’s experience at Beau Jacks, a suburban Detroit restaurant. Their experience was exceptional; so, I decided to interview the owner, Gary Cochran. I wanted to learn what he does to keep his customers coming back 3 or 4 nights a week. His restaurant is so successful that patrons are willing to endure long waits, because it’s worth it, even in Detroit’s depressed times. Beau Jack’s is also one of Jay Leno’s favorite Detroit restaurants.

Here are Cochran’s tips for a successful business:

Don’t do traditional advertising.

Cochran doesn’t buy traditional advertising. He puts his money into supporting his loyal customers’ causes. When his customers ask him to buy ads in yearbooks, pay for sponsorships, or supports charitable golf outings, he does it. “I do my advertising with the people who eat with me.”

Keep your staff pumped up.

Cochran creates a weekly newsletter for his employees. The bottom of the newsletter has a motivational quote intended to keep his people thinking positively. He tells them, “ We don’t have to take part in this recession if the food and service is great.”

Have high standards.

“In this economy we have to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.” Cochran makes sure that his parking lot is repaved and painted every year whether it needs it or not. He has an iron and ironing board outside of the staff’s dressing room so that everyone looks impeccable. He believes that good is not good enough. “I don’t want you to pay for good, you pay for great.”

Treat your customers like members of a private club.

Cochran encourages his staff to learn customers’ names and preferences. “I always tell my staff that if they worked in a country club they would remember their names and that they like five olives in their martinis.”

He also provides his staff with business cards that they give out when they hand the customer the bill. He encourages the staff to tell the customers, “Ask for me next time you come in.”

Treat special needs customers differently.

Even though his customers may have to wait up to 45 minutes to be seated, he understands that it can be a hardship. When a customer is using a walker, he tries to seat them sooner. If customers have small children with them, the wait staff may place an order for chicken strips (on the house) so that the minute the family sits down there is food for the kids.

Don’t ask your employees to do anything you wouldn’t do.

Cochran hasn’t had a day off in the last 18 months. He can often be found with a coffee pot in his hand, bussing tables or picking up a dropped napkin. The treatment of his staff is so good that he has kept his employees for decades. His newest employee has been with him for six years.

Empower your employees.

His servers know that if they are overwhelmed with customers and are not providing great service, they can buy the customer a dessert with apologies. If there is a problem with food, they know that they can go to the chef or a manager and get the issue resolved.

If you take Cochran’s tips and translate them for your business, you too can do what Cochran does and “not take part in this recession.”

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