When something goes wrong in the restaurant we, as operators, have an opportunity to fix it. We are able to talk to the customer then and there, and make sure that we repair the relationship and fix whatever problem they’re having. When something goes wrong off-premise, or during a catering order, we have a much more limited vision into what happened and therefore less of a chance to capture and mend every problem.
I’ve listed the top five things an operator can do to make sure he/she is retaining as many catering customers as possible:
- Quality Assurance Checks (QAC)
- Speedy Resolution
- Habitual Business Processes
- Execution Rate
1. Follow-Up Calls: Many operators know they should be doing this but unfortunately not many are making this a daily or weekly habit. This should be part of the day closing or opening restaurant manager’s responsibilities. It needs to be done every day there is a catering order. Not only does it help build the relationship with the catering customer but if done the day of the problem there is a much higher percentage rate of getting that customer to order with you again. Waiting too long to address or capture a problem is detrimental to the relationship. Once the customer is over the problem, they’re over us.
2. QAC’s: If we aren’t doing weekly spot checks on our catering orders, we’re accentually blind to our catering operation. There is so much that can be solved for but only when you leave the restaurant and get on-site of some of your catering orders. How much food is left over? Too much? Not enough? How did the driver set up the food? Was he on time? How was the presentation from a customer perspective? Did the driver leave menus or bounce back coupons? And so on, and so on…I can’t tell you how much money we saved and how we were able to develop the efficiency of our catering program conducting these QAC’s on a weekly basis.
3. Speedy Resolution: Customers have told me that it takes some catering vendors weeks to just get them a duplicate receipt for their catering order when the driver forgets it (or the customer loses it!). Or how many hurdles they have to jump in order to get a refund for a lost or late order. If it takes weeks to rectify a mistake that we make…a customer isn’t going to want to do regular business with us. Our competitors make mistakes too. It’s not a matter of being perfect; it’s setting a standard of fixing issues within a 24-hour period. If we don’t have the ability to do this now, then the recommendation is to find a solution ASAP.
4. Habitual Business Processes: There are many steps that can and do go wrong while executing a catering order – everything from the store missing the order and resulting in a late start, to the driver getting lost on the way to the delivery. Since we know these are circumstances that are going to happen, the key is to be proactive to avoid some of these problems. Then if it happens, regardless of our proactive measures, we have to react consistently each time and with the customer or end user experience the determining factor in how these issues are managed. I recommend a poster be hung in all kitchens with each step of the execution clearly outlined to help not only build habits but to clearly post expectations. It’s a great training tool but it will also help identify what we could have done to avoid an unhappy customer. 90% of catering execution issues can be avoided if the correct steps are taken proactively.
5. Execution Rate: Without a standard bar, there is no standard. We had a 98% execution rate as our bar. That means that 98% of our customers needed to be happy in order for our catering business to be successful. In order to measure this rate, we need some kind of relationship management system – a system that customer complaints can be entered into and tracked against the “at fault” store. The complaints should be entered and resolution costs should also be tracked and measured. To use one more over used saying, “what get’s measured, grows”. That’s the key. If stores aren’t held accountable to their execution rate, there is no incentive to improve.
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