Make the final word your best

Feb. 6, 2012 | by Don Fox

Each and every day, your restaurant team serves scores of customers. Your desire is to have every guest experience the very best of your brand, from the time they spot your sign from the street until they make an easy left turn headed for home.

At every point in between, your brand speaks to the customer. Just think about the number of signs and images that greet the guest!  Each and every one says something about the personality of the brand. Whether functional or promotional in nature, everything is there for a purpose, the product of thought and deliberation by the architects of the brand. Ideally, every element should compliment the other; it is what marketers and brand leaders strive for. And so it is no wonder when the professionals leading the charge on this front grimace at the sight of home made posts, sometimes chicken-scratched on nothing more than a napkin or take-out bag, occupying prime real estate within the gaze of the customer.

In a perfect world, you would scrutinize every point and angle of view inside and outside your restaurant.  We often talk about the primary points that the guest has visual contact with: the entry door, the menu boards, the appearance of the counter and surrounding area at the POS device, to name a few. But have you ever taken the time to look at the perspective the guest has from EVERY seat in your restaurant? I would dare say that is an exercise that few have indulged in. But it is one that is very worthy of consideration. You might be surprised by what you see from some of the tables and seats in your dining area (actually viewed while sitting in the seat).  Ideally, you want to ensure that the line of sight, in every case, supports the messages you are trying to communicate about your brand.

It is also important to take a look at that critical last impression. What are the messages...and perhaps most importantly, what is the LAST message...you are delivering to your guests when they depart?

In some respects, I envy our cousins in the QSR realm for the opportunity they have to exercise very tight control of the branding in their drive thru experiences. The majority of their customers are serviced through the drive thru (typically 65 to 70%). Virtually every QSR operator HAS looked at the drive thru visuals in detail through the driver's side window of their own vehicle (though if you really want to get into the details, the height of vehicle can make a difference in the appearance at various touch points).  The drive thru operator has an excellent opportunity to communicate with their guests at the drive thru window. One would think that, for any major brand, the messaging at the window would be extremely well conceived and purposeful.   Hundreds of customers a day pass before this space and have the opportunity to soak in the message.

It is with this in mind that I scratch my head over the most prominent message at the final windows of a prominent QSR chain (and some of their brethren also mimic the practice).  I used to see this all of the time via hand written or Word documents taped to the drive thru glass. The signs were obviously made by the management of the unit, or the franchisee, and posted up in defiance of corporate dictates. After all, how could the leadership of a major brand squander one of the most impactful, final visual interactions that the customer has with the restaurant?

But just the other day, I saw one of these signs, not made from scratch on a 12 pound bag. Rather, it was a slick, quality brand piece, delivered straight from the bowels of the marketing department.  The all important message?

Sauces per order: 6 Pc 1 Sauce, 10 Pc 2 Sauces, 20 Pc 3 Sauces.  And the all important key message for the valued guest, who is about to cast their gaze ahead to the road:  Extra Sauce 23 cents each.

Of all the things you would want to leave as a last impression, why would it be this?  Obviously, the intent is to manage the cost of an inventory item. But what minor percentage of the customers does this even apply to? Does the benefit gained from policing this inventory item exceed the value of trying to create a positive final impression in the eyes of 70 percent of your customers? It is hard to imagine that the former could take precedence over the latter. The net result is a message to the majority of your guests that you are nothing short of cheap.

There is a lesson here for all operators and brand leaders. Scrutinize at every turn the messaging you place in front of your guests. Every word matters. Every picture matters.  And of course, it goes without saying that if your restaurant team doesn't deliver your brand experience the way you intend it to be, then scratch everything I just said.


Topics: Back Office, Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Franchising & Growth, Operations Management


Don Fox / Don Fox has 30+ years experience in the restaurant industry. He joined Firehouse Subs in 2003 as director of Franchise Compliance, and was promoted to the position of CEO in 2009.
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