There was an interesting article in the Huffington Post the other day, “Are Restaurants Holding On to Foolish Rules?.
Many of us will find the attitude familiar.
The story is about a special that a restaurant was holding to draw in customers: $2.00 Tacos (normal price: $9.00). The idea was that on an otherwise slow day the customers who came in for the tacos would also order beer and other things, making the whole idea worthwhile.
In this case, one of the patrons was expecting his wife and child to join him at the restaurant, but they unexpectedly could not make it. So, he wanted 4 tacos to take to them.
The restaurant wouldn’t do it. No take-outs on $2 Taco Tuesday. That rather makes sense—the purpose of the promotion was to draw people into an otherwise empty restaurant. They probably took a loss on the $2 tacos, but made up for it in the other stuff.
But this was a rather special situation, so they might have made an exception (particularly if these folks were regular patrons).
But they wouldn’t. A RULE is a RULE.
So then the guy offered to pay full price for the tacos. That makes sense, right? There’s no attempt to cheat the restaurant.
But they wouldn’t. A RULE is a RULE.
Of course, barefooters get that a lot, particularly in restaurants. The restaurant decides that a rule is a rule. But even worse, when it comes to bare feet, there probably really isn’t even a rule. It is being made up on the spot.
What’s worse, they are so intent on being rule-driven, that they entirely forget why they are there: to attract and serve their customers, and thereby make a living. Pissing off customers is never a good idea.
Here is how the meat of the article ends:
I have several theories about how and why this policy is being enforced, but all of them lead me to the conclusion that the restaurant is mindlessly serving its written policies, and not its customers or its bottom line. Perhaps I’m missing something. What do you think?
That’s exactly what is going on, too. The restaurant is mindlessly serving its written policies (and for bare feet, they are mindlessly serving their prejudice). And the restaurant really has forgotten about serving its customers.
The article ends with some responses (from various other restaurant owners) to the question asked.
The situation that you described is a systemic problem in many restaurants that lack well-trained managers. Restaurant owners and service industries are plagued by their inability to delegate authority down to customer-facing personnel. Even in the corporate world policies are subject to interpretation and are frequently “watered down” when there is a client involved. There is no better feeling than when a restaurant server, manager or chef bends over backward to accommodate special requests, and typically the client will pay any price to reciprocate. Sadly many chains and restaurant owners just don’t get it and customers suffer.
Here’s another one:
My family owns a very popular Italian restaurant and we have a Tuesday Pasta Night for $3.50. This is a dine-in only promotion like the one you mentioned. For a long time we abided by our rule of dine-in only and still do. However, we have a loyal clientele and when they ask me to please sell them a to-go order of the pasta for a loved one at home either sick, working or otherwise, I let them take the pasta home. This doesn’t happen often, but it sure makes for happy, loyal repeat customers. Making people happy is more important than a few dollars. Rules can be broken.
The thing is, as noted, a good response can endear a customer and make a regular out of them. For me, there is a store nearby that responded intelligently when I wrote to them about their NSNSNS sign. The owner removed the sign, and had the greeter welcome me specifically the next time I came in. This place is now first on my list when I need various household items (even if it is a bit of a longer drive). They have gotten thousands of dollars of my business because of it. I’m a regular customer and they all know me.
On the other hand, a new Olive Garden nearby was just plain old difficult and threatened to arrest me. The manager there was brain dead and would not even let me sit at my table without shoes on. (Were they really looking around at all the other tables to make sure none of the other patrons weren’t slipping off their sandals while they were eating?) Even correspondence with their executives only, grudgingly, got them to admit that I might sit at the table barefoot, but I certainly could not enter that way.
So I don’t bother going there much. On the other hand, if they’d said, “Fine, our manager messed up. Feel free to come in barefoot,” you know I would be making a special effort to eat there regularly.
That’s the difference between a manager who knows that he or she is doing, and one for whom
A RULE is a RULE.