It’s a wham-bam, thank-you-ma’am kind of business and that’s the way most of our QSR customers like it. But while speed is important, we often don’t take the time to actually talk to our customers. Train your counter staff to make interactions fast and friendly:
- Walk the talk. During downtimes (or just when the team has it under control), walk around the tables and talk to customers. How’s the food? Do you need more ketchup? Did you have to wait long?
- Boost “bussers.” When you assign someone to clean up tables, also request they offer refills or extra napkins to customers. In one local QSR, the employee who paints faces brings pitchers of soft drinks out during her downtime.
- Focus up front. Sure, the line’s long and everyone’s busy, but it only takes a few seconds to ask sincerely, “How are you today?” before taking an order.
Empower your employees to respond properly to any kind of request. To be successful, they’ll need the training and the autonomy to make good decisions. You’ll need to support them, even if they make mistakes from time to time. In those cases, it’s wise to discuss the matter privately, never in front of guests. A good way to start: “What could we have done differently to prevent the situation from occurring?”
Employees who can solve problems and know they have the backing of management will provide great service. Fries are cold? Drink is wrong? Sandwich or pizza made incorrectly? Employees can take care of these situations. If the manager has to get involved, use this acronym: L.E.A.S.T – Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Solve and Thank.
Be careful not to create a standard resolution policy such as: Food took too long equals free dessert. Food not cooked properly equals comp. And so on. It should be clear by now that every guest and every situation is different.
Put simply, Quick Service That Sells! is delivering hospitality and a customized experience for guests. While they may be on the phone for only two minutes ordering pizza or 90 seconds in the drive thru or 60 seconds with a cashier, the experience needs to be unique. The formula is easy — execution each and every day is not. The success formula is simple to remember: S.H.A.Q.
Speed + Hospitality + Accuracy + Quality = Quick Service That Sells!
Speed. Guests want it quick — that’s why they’re dining with, or ordering from, your restaurant. They have a need for speed, but not at the expense of other components. Anyone can provide food faster for speed’s sake but today’s guests demand more.
Hospitality. Not only is it what you say, it’s how you say it. Hospitality screams: “We care!” It drives loyalty and frequency. It builds sales by eliminating the competition from guests’ minds. It’s the emotional attachment you make with guests.
Accuracy. Deliver what guests want to buy, not what the company wants to sell. Guests are demanding and special requests have become the norm. Vegetarian, low carb, no sauce and make it right now!
Quality. Expectations have risen in the eyes of guests. Competitors continue to offer fresher, higher quality food. Guests want value and quality — period. If you execute effectively in these four areas, sales will increase. It won’t happen, however, by itself. Success is in the hands of the manager and crew.
To increase sales in your quick-service restaurant, you need to break out of the QSR rut. Lose the monotone “Would you like to up-size your value meal?” and insincere “I have to tell you about our whatever or we get counted off by our mystery shopper” or “Would you like to add another pizza for $5?”
One reason cashiers and phone reps don’t sell is a lack of confidence. Why? They don’t have enough knowledge. If, for instance, they haven’t been trained well on the menu (or the training was so long ago it’s been forgotten), they’re not likely to suggest these items. They’re afraid they won’t know an answer to guests’ questions. So what can be done to increase knowledge? Train them! Start with these ideas, customized to your establishment:
Ask questions. If guests are indecisive, ask what they typically order or what type of food they like so you can customize suggestions and ensure they have an outstanding meal. Suggest unique items. Everyone offers standard fare, and it should be on the menu, but to get guests coming back again and again, it’s a good idea to let them know about items they can’t get anywhere else. Or maybe it’s the method of preparation that sets an item apart. In other words, promote what makes your food distinctive.
Eliminate over-used lines such as “Would you like…” and “Do you want…” They virtually encourage a “no” response. For example, “Would you like a dessert?” If guests are indecisive, “no” is the easy way out. Or perhaps they’ll decline because there are too many unanswered questions: “How much is it?” and “What do you have?” and “Which one is the best?”
Watch the negatives. Since most cashiers sell like they’ve been sold to, they tend to repeat what they hear when they eat out. Unfortunately, many of those phrases are negative and may have crept into their vocabulary. When was the last time you actually listened to one of your cashiers or phone reps make suggestions?
You have three to five minutes to make quick-service customers happy, which is longer than the typical prime-time TV commercial and shorter than it would take a customer to defrost a frozen burrito picked up at the grocery store. That’s an awfully thin margin of error. Yet customers expect your staff to be able to do it — day in and day out. If customers had the time for a sit-down dinner, there are plenty of other establishments that could fit the bill. But they’ve chosen your place, allotting 300 seconds of their valuable time to get what they want. Can your staff deliver? No question.
So why do things fall apart? Because you and your staff are trying to meet customers’ many other demands simultaneously. They want a quality meal, as ordered, consistent from one visit to the next and from location to location — and they want it right now. If service is fast but wrong, the problem can’t be justified by the busy lunch rush. If you can’t keep up the pace, you have no business in the quick-service business.
To manage that three- to five-minute time frame, first understand that you can’t manage time. It’s a dimension, not a thing. Instead, manage the employee activities that must take place during that window of opportunity. Scrutinize every stage in the process — taking orders, sending orders to the kitchen, cooking, assembling, bagging, delivery. Look for areas to streamline.
Be sure your line is designed for speed. Everything your cooks need should be within reach at all times. Your quick-service systems and procedures should maximize every millisecond. Eventually you’ll see where breakdowns occur and be able to make changes accordingly. If it’s a systems problem, re-design the system. If it’s an employee problem, re-train the employee. Practice, practice, practice until everyone can keep up the pace.
We all know that accuracy and speed (in that order) are the most important components of a successful drive thru, but little surprises in the drive thru can make it more fun for everyone.
- Throw candy in the bag. Sure, it sounds simple, but it’s inexpensive and sure to please. If you’re worried about the mom who doesn’t want it, keep it in a basket by the window and ask first.
- Put jokes on the window. One QSR has the beginning of the riddle on the menu board and the answer on the window. They change weekly and even when the driver doesn’t notice, the kid in the back does.
- Go wacky (with straws). Yes, they cost a bit more for those twirls and whirls, but they’re a big hit with kid’s meals. And, as everybody in this business knows, pleasing the kid is one of the best ways to ensure a repeat visit.
Train your quick-service employees that accuracy is about getting the order right, no matter what. Most mistakes occur when guests make special requests. Hold the pickles. Easy on the mayo. No olives.
There’s a huge difference between hearing and understanding. To listen successfully at the counter, lean forward and make eye contact, looking away only to work the register. Ask questions if you’re unclear about anything guests say.
Counter crew should repeat back the order to guests — both when taking it and delivering it. Kitchen crew should double-check every order against the original ticket or order screen, paying close attention to special requests. The order should be checked again as it’s placed on the tray or in the bag.
Need more ideas to train your quick-service crew? Check out Quick Service That Sells! The DVD to learn Strategies to improve speed, accuracy, quality, value, consistency, service, atmosphere and personalization. Watch the DVD clip below to learn about how to improve speed and accuracy in your operation.