I’ve attended two consecutive breakfast meetings this week both held at five star restaurants, one addressing strategies to realize Africa’s wealth through inclusive business initiatives and the other addressing branding and business opportunities to be explored given the country’s new county oriented dispensation.
The fundamental organization and venue provisions at both events have been exactly the same -a breakfast buffet spread accessible to the guests at 7am on arrival, breakfast service until about 8am preceding the main event commencement.
What has completely amazed me though, is how the two experiences I’ve had, have been radically different despite an almost replica product on offer. The food in both places was the usual breakfast fare of fruit, cereal, juice, cheese, chafing dishes with protein and vegetable offerings and a pastry corner, with the quality of food being pretty much the same.
What then made the marked difference that had me heaping accolades on one establishment and leaving with a sour taste in my mouth (pun intended) from the other?
Well for starters, one significant difference was that although in both places it was a self service arrangement as is normally the case, the first had a top hatted chef hovering about the chafing dishes, explaining to guests what fare was on offer, helping them make informed choices and manning the quantity levels for re-fill cues. That added a delightful touch to the breakfast selection experience.
The other buffet was not only unmanned, but had items run out unreplenished, leaving guests feeling shortchanged at the empty troughs, with only the item labels to confirm to them the specific food item they had missed out on.
The table service at the first establishment was seamlessly choreographed with the waiters almost intuitively alert to clear away crockery as soon as one finished their last forkful, offer beverage refills as soon as one took the last sip from their cups and appear almost magically by one’s side at the first indication of a guest turning their head to look up for service.
At the second event, plates remained uncleared, with initial plates used for whatever first course guests may have had, competing for table space with the subsequent helpings. The sight was quite cluttered and unpleasant. The beverage service was completely wanting and guests pretty much had to cradle empty cups waiting for the 2 waiters to move from table to table to serve beverage requests to a room of 15 tables with 8 guests each. I leave it to the mathematically inclined lot to compute the total time taken to arrive at the last table given the average time taken to serve an individual guest’s order in relation to the total number of guests in the room.
It is almost cliché to repeat the often asserted point about an organization being only as good as the people working for it. But isn’t that just the simple truth? The venue, food and drink may be the same in two establishments, but what makes or breaks the guest’s experience is how it is served.
Nothing beats attentive, courteous, timely and coordinated service. Provide this to your customers consistently, no matter the product, service or industry you are in, and that will have customers repeatedly coming for more and automatically telling everyone about it. The key that unlocks the door to customers’ hearts is predictable quality and unshakable consistency.
Sounds stolid, dull, humdrum and banal right? But that’s the name of the game troopers. Even if you think up an exciting way to delight your clients, keep it coming, each time, every time such that when they tell their Mum about it and she comes to see you, you’ll do the exact thing her child told her you would. And that right there is the key to keeping the currency flowing through your ledgers.