Observation over listening and how resturants fail

by Jason Davies on May 25, 2013

One interesting aspect of my job is that each day I come across opportunities to observe patterns of human behavior towards technology and business.  You may have heard that you should listen twice as much as you speak, I like to observe 10x more than I listen.  Observation is a strong tool in helping you understand your audience and how an organization and environment works. 

In tough economic times, business leaders and individuals are quick to decrease spending and hope they will improve their existing situation.  This might work for a while but often, the outcome can be contradicting. Most thought process operates as an invariable relationship similar to the thought that, “what goes up, must come down.” Further, “as something goes up, something else comes down.”

One example would be an Italian restaurant; since I don’t want to get into any trouble I will just say a big Italian restaurant in the United States has had issues with profits.  The economy started to decline and the said organization thinks that dropping food costs will increase the customer base.  I believe that strategy is right out of the board room of crap. 

Have you ever gone into a restaurant and had bad service, bad tasting food, and enjoyed a lack-luster atmosphere? We all have and the truth is that even a free meal does not ensure a customer will return.  People tend to eat out because they want to experience something they cannot procure in their home. I eat out much more than I should and have developed my idea of what should happen. You should receive food that does not taste like cardboard right?  Going back to this Italian joint that I ate at yesterday, my friend said, “Doesn’t the marinara sauce just taste like spicy ketchup?” All of a sudden I stopped feeling hungry and came to the realization he was right. Further, I came to the conclusion that I don’t need to eat out at this restaurant anymore either.

This restaurant had a manager who came to our table to ask us how things were. Have you ever honestly answered a restaurant manager?  “We feel like your food is horrible.” The manager would probably reply, “Sorry you feel that way would you like something free?”  See the dichotomy of the situation?  In one aspect I am honest with my response, but in another management isn’t able to relate. Or, if management is what power do they have to change the organization? 

The solution to making a dining experience better would be to ensure that when I walk into a “chain style” Italian restaurant, I do not feel like it.  I often wonder how difficult it would be to ensure staff wasn’t simply standing around but rather looking around the dining room and seeing how they could better serve customers.  Perhaps, managers could be observed walking through the dining room more than once in an hour.  That said, when you try to cut corners by lowering prices and decreasing your food costs, the customer base declines and so does the revenue stream. 

This pattern of thinking amidst chain restaurants happens far too often. If you are a multinational chain you should examine the purpose and goal of your brand and slogan. This is why I like to observe, the failure of the Italian chain I mentioned is in the fact that nothing during my lunch out in the restaurant tied the experience and the company together. After all, if you build it they will come right?

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