When you buy a car, a camera or a toaster oven, you receive a warranty — a guarantee that the product will work. How often have you seen a warranty for restaurant meals? Hardly ever. Yet it is here, in buying a service like a restaurant meal, that the assurance of a guarantee would presumably count most.
Can service be guarenteed?
Many people believe that, by definition, services simply can't be guaranteed. Services are generally delivered by human beings, who are known to be less predictable than machines. To complicate it further, services are produced and consumed at the same time.
It is easy to guarantee a camera, which can be inspected before the buyer gets it, and which can be returned to the factory for repairs. Obviously, you don't have the same opportunities with a restaurant meal.
But that does not mean that you cannot guarantee guest satisfaction. At first glance, guaranteeing that guests will have a great time seems a little crazy. After all, there are lots of factors that determine whether a person has a good time or not, and not all of them are under your control.
On closer examination, though, the idea isn't as crazy as it seems.
Regardless of where the fault lies, anything that causes your guests to have less than a great time reflects on the restaurant. Since you are going to suffer anyway, making a commitment to giving your guests a great time will force you to do it!
Your company exists only to make your guests happy. Every time a guest leaves your restaurant with a more optimistic view of the world, you have done your job; every time you fail to raise a guest's spirits with good food, gratifying service and a soothing atmosphere, you have not!
To the extent that you delight your guests, you will move in the direction of becoming the most successful restaurant in the market. This may seem pretty obvious—a useful motto that most restaurants understandably overlook in the day-to-day flood of details—but I believe that your passionate commitment to this goal of excellence is the key to your growth and profits.
You see, in order to offer this guarantee and not lose your shirt, you have to be consistently great, consistently professional, consistently alert and responsive to what your guests want. When you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, it requires that you stay focused on providing memorable service according to the standards of your guests.
In practice, this simply means that everyone in the company, regardless of position, has the responsibility and authority to do whatever they believe is necessary to be sure the guest has a great time every time they dine with you. Your staff should not need someone else's permission first and there should never be any repercussions for any actions taken in the cause of delivering memorable guest
The real cost
This is obviously going to cost you money when you make mistakes or fail to satisfy your guests and have to make it right. However, if you are not satisfying your guests, it is already costing you money! If you don't have to pay off, you just don't know how much you are losing!
By getting your breakdowns out in the open, you can start to identify the causes and figure out how to eliminate the problem. When you start looking at system failures, you can see where you may have done an ineffective job of training or where your delivery system is too complex. You can identify a menu item that is impossible to prepare.
System failure costs are not the same as staff failure costs. In fact, it is helpful to look at all failures as system failures.
Staff failures are actually breakdowns in your selection system (you hired the wrong person), your development system (they were not adequately trained) or your coaching system (their performance was not properly monitored). System failure costs measure the extent of the confusion in company structure, for which the company alone is responsible. You should welcome every payoff on your service guarantee—every system failure expense—as an otherwise lost insight into your business. It is a clue as to where the gold is hidden.
You can make every problem pay a dividend if you avoid band-aid solutions and insist on finding the real cause of each problem. You actually want to pay off on your guarantee. Every dollar you give away points to a problem you can fix.
As part of your training, you should discuss appropriateness. It might be inappropriate, for example, to comp an entire meal if you were late delivering the salad. If you spill soup on a guest, it would be very appropriate to give them enough money for cleaning, replace the soup and give them something unexpected for their trouble.
Discussing appropriateness with your staff will help them be more comfortable when dealing with guests who may be upset. The goal of it all, however, is simply to help assure that every guest will have a marvelous experience every time they dine with you.