My article “How Good Service Kills Your Restaurant” almost went viral on LinkedIn. Hopefully, by the time you read this, almost can be removed from that sentence.
In that article I wrote about the major difference between service and hospitality - service is a skill, hospitality is a spirit.
After thousands of views, hundreds of comments and shares, 99% supported and agreed that hospitality is what most businesses (not just restaurants) lack. I received numerous private messages from readers letting me know how much the article hit home for them. I even booked a couple of speaking engagements from it! A total home run.
But, this post addresses the comments of one reader:
“Nice read... But in fast food chains… Sorry to say, but!! No time for hospitality..”
This commenter’s professional title read: Quality Assurance Officer at Subway.
That’s all I needed to hear!
With anything I do, say or write, I am not looking for people to agree with me. If anything, I'm looking for people who challenge my ideas. It kicks me into a higher gear of thinking; ideas are born. I get excited that I got them thinking and I get more to write about. This article is born from that.
Deconstructed desserts are in vogue nowadays. They're supposed to help us understand how different flavors and textures come together to make a dessert what it is.
In order to fully address the commentator mentioned above and anyone else who thinks hospitality is something only table-service restaurants should worry about, I'll deconstructhospitality for you.
Service is something we do, hospitality is something we are. Service is a skill, hospitality is a spirit.
Service in a restaurant is prompt table greeting and suggestive selling. Hot food is hot, cold food is cold. Service is “Please” and “Thank you,” “Come back and see us,” blah blah blah..
I roll my eyes when I receive "good service”. I never come back for it.
I am not saying service is unimportant. But great service is expected; no one shows up to a place of business hoping for bad service.
We go back to a restaurant, however, for the feelings we want to feel again and the experience we want to relive. This is achieved only through hospitality.
And by the way, if you have ever experienced hospitality, you’ve also experienced great service. They are not mutually exclusive.
Hospitality is hard to define.
It is nearly impossible to measure because its effects are continuous, like the butterfly effect. There are no systems and processes for hospitality. I have written hundreds (yes, hundreds) of “Service Manuals,” never a “Hospitality Manual.” If you have, you played yourself and everyone you wrote it for.
But, hospitality is not hard to recognize. As soon as you feel it, you know what it is. It looks, sounds and feels like magic! Have you ever talked to a person and left feeling like you were the most important person to them? And it had nothing to do with what you talked about, how long or whether he or she was a complete stranger. That was their spirit of hospitality.
So, what does this concept of hospitality have to do with fast food restaurants (or their new term, Quick Service Restaurants)? Everything.
One of my readers argued that hospitality and guest experience is even more important in QSR’s. I am up for making that case.
Quick Service or Wine And Dine, neither is in the food business. Both are in the people business.
For guests, the expectation at a Quick Service Restaurant is no fuss, quick in and out. This does not mean soulless, disengaged and transactional. Quick Service operators may aim for more efficiency, but hospitality is what makes the efficient effective!
QSRs have shorter time for guest interactions compared to table-service or more formal restaurants. This means less time to do more for their customers. It’s crucial for QSRs to zoom in on the guest experience if they want to stand out from the rest.
“Quick service” does not mean “hit it and quit it.”
The comment I received on my How Good Service Kills Your Restaurant article came from Subway’s own Quality Assurance Officer. Does Subway really think hospitality doesn’t matter in a QSR? To me, his comment reveals just that.
Subway’s mission statement says: Delight every customer so they want to tell their friends – with great value through fresh, delicious, made-to-order sandwiches, and an exceptional experience. Subway’s vision statement reads: "Be the #1 Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) franchise in the world, while delivering fresh, delicious sandwiches and an exceptional experience."
I am not into mission and vision statements. Usually they stay on the wall plaque as a good talk but no walk, are written with the company and not customers in mind, and sound like a copy-paste of dictums.
I am into living your values, as a human being and as a company.
Companies that are really living their values, walk their talk from top to bottom. Leaders of the greatest organizations are one with their company’s values. They live it, breath it and speak it until they are blue in the face, and make sure everyone on their team does too. They are heavily invested in their team's development, because they know it’s the area of biggest ROI.
One may ask how a Subway’s Quality Assurance Officer has missed the main reason the company he works for is in business. “To delight every customer so they want to tell their friends,” right? “Exceptional experience” is a part of Subway’s mission and vision statements. How come their employee doesn’t know it?
Furthermore, what does Quality Assurance mean at Subway? How come the person in charge of quality control doesn’t grasp the meaning behind the word quality? There is no quality assurance without knowing why quality is even important enough to create a whole department for it. Isn’t quality all about the consumers of it? There is no quality without hospitality.
I want to think Subway aims to be one of the greatest, even though their mission and vision statements need a lot of work. I also think Subway is focused on areas of least ROI.
I’ve had both great and mediocre-at-best experiences at Subway. That reeks of inconsistency. If you’re good at anything, you’re consistent at it. No excuses to play the blame game for multi-unit operators. No playing hookie for franchisors.
When an employee of a restaurant company with over 40 thousand locations says there is no time for hospitality, he speaks for the entire franchise.