BE YOUR OWN MYSTERY GUEST...
Strategic Planning is formulating immediate as well as long range goals to make your restaurant run more efficiently.
A start is to step back and look at your operation with the eyes of your customers. If you can learn to see what your clientele sees in their first few minutes, you'll know more quickly how to start to improve your operation.
What do your customers see when they look at the exterior of the restaurant?
Can your signs be seen easily, and do they tell a truthful story about what you have to offer inside? Look at your building:
Is the paint peeling, are the window panes spotless or spotted?
Is the garbage area well hidden and covered? How about the grounds?
Do you step over potholes in the paving, are there gaping cracks with weeds coming through the sidewalks?
In rainy season does the water form puddles in front of the main entrance way?
Are there cigarette butts and gum wrappers in the shrubbery?
Now enter as if you were a customer:
Is the main entrance door easily seen?
If there are several entrances, can you identify the one to use?
When you walk inside, can your eyes adjust easily so you can see where to go clearly?
Is there a sign telling you either to "wait" or "please seat yourself"?
If any of the following apply to your place, can you find the way to the host station, buffet line, or the order area for fast food?
If there's a crowd waiting to be seated, can you see empty or uncleared tables ahead while the crowd stands and waits?
Is there confusion over reservations, is the waiting line organized for human beings?
Do you hear comments like "We've been waiting over an hour already, and they told us it would be only a few minutes wait"!
Are the waiting people relaxed ? or resigned ? or angry?
Start looking for things that will quickly turn you off as a customer:
As you play a customer being directed to your table, does the carpeting look clean and attractive or just plain stained and shoddy?
Are the public areas neat and clean with adequate lighting?
Are your china, glassware and flatware sanitary as well as shining bright?
Bad sanitation can certainly affect your patron's trust and confidence in the wholesomeness of your food. Washrooms are an immediate indicator of sloppy housekeeping which is usually associated by the patron with indifference in food handling and preparation.
How about your menu?
Are there "typos" and write-ins inside and ketchup and mustard stains on the outside?
Actually ask yourself, "Does my restaurant look first class or second rate?"
When you are finally seated at your table, look and listen:
Do the customers seem to be enjoying themselves? Is there "happy noise" or do you hear clatter and clanging from the kitchen and service pantries? Finally, watch your employees. Are they working effectively as a team or are they "chasing their tails?" Do they speak pleasantly to one another, as if they enjoy working together, or do they pass each other with indifference or with actual hostility?
By acting as your own customer you'll be amazed at what you'll really observe about your own operations. You will be able to develop a long list of areas that need improvement.
This activity of "looking within one's own work space" is an activity often performed so well by an outside consultant -as myself!- who looks at your facility with "fresh eyes".
Whatever means you use to achieve the introspection for a clinical analysis of your operations, this is a first step in strategic planning.
Related post: How to deal with difficult clients?
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