Maybe you are there, maybe you have been there, maybe you are on your way there but when I was much younger, a food server, married, wife going to school, not much money, I had to go to the Laundromat weekly. I saved all my quarters from my tips to do my wash. As I narrowed down the load of clothes that had to be done I would have a couple of quarters left over and in the back corner of the room sat a Coke machine. The thought of a cold can of Coke just seem to hit the spot.

I walk up, drop my two quarters in, push the big red button and wait for the sound of the tumbling can through the mechanism and the loud thud of the can hitting the delivery chute. I can already picture myself tapping the top of the can lightly to settle the bubbles so when I open it there is no spray of sticky soda everywhere.

But instead, nothing… coke, no coins in the return slot, no out of that selection pick something else…just nothing. I am pissed to say the least.

Over at the desk I see the young operator with his legs propped up on the desk in his laundry supervisory posture. You probably already know where this is going.

“Hey man, your coke machine ate my money!”

“Sorry dude, we don’t own those machines. There is a number on the front of the machine you can call to report the money you lost, but good luck with that.”

I head back over to that Coke machine even more pissed, ready to take out my anger on that inanimate bad boy. I shake that machine, rocking it back and forth; waiting for it to dislodge my 50 cent can of pleasure! Nothing…I shove my hand around the flap hoping to get my fingers around the can that I own. Again, nothing, more anger….I am in a bad mood, ready to light up whoever comes in contact with me.

This ever happen to you?

-Ever had a guest come to your restaurant and pay you money for their meal and you didn’t deliver exactly what they ordered?
-Ever had a server or manager act indifferent towards a guest when they missed a few of the service steps?
-Have you ever fallen short of handling a guest situation 100% because you were tired, just not in the game that day?

Well, you are the Coke machine, I am your guest, you took my 50 cents, and I want what I want and I want it now. Get ready for the next step; I am fixing to SHAKE you till I get my Coke or worse, until I get my money back.

It’s a tough economy, less money to go around, and the money I spend with you may be all I have. Don’t make me mad, just let me pay you, and give me my Coke. I did pay for it!

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Tags: Restaurant, economy, employees, leadership, service, tough


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Comment by Patrick O on February 9, 2009 at 7:29am
Hi Andy.
People are becoming a lot more frugal and they want more value for their money and they're willing to demand it!
I know that when I train FOH staff in my restaurant, we require a guest to be recognized/visited, just after being sat, within 60 seconds...I don't think that's too much to it?
I think that everyone should understand that a restaurant is like your home and that when you have people over, they are your guests, and should be made to feel that way. A server, much less a person in a management/supervisory role, shouldn't act indifferently to don't know how much I earn nor how much money I presently have in my pocket. In other words, don't judge a book by it's cover.
Comment by Kathy Hamlin on February 5, 2009 at 6:27pm
I remember when too, Andy!
Comment by Andy Swingley on February 5, 2009 at 4:50pm
Thanks age always seems to show!
Comment by Andy Swingley on February 5, 2009 at 4:49pm
To Mark - you are right, this story does evoke numerous "angles". My overall intent was to call out to all that you have to understand and know your guest. In some socio-economic situations the demanded value of the restaurant experience may be filtered by the condition of the current environment i.e, a family of four with a combined income of $35,000 may react differently to a poor experience than that same family of four with a combined income of $100,000.

I believe the family with less cash flow will "require" and "demand" you don't screw it up because they are less likely to be able to go out with the same frequency as the higher income family. They will definitely react by "shaking" you if they don't get their value as this may be their only chance to go out this month.
Comment by Kathy Hamlin on February 5, 2009 at 11:16am
Fifty cents for a Coke? You're showing your age Andy!
Comment by Sean Moloney on February 5, 2009 at 9:32am
Great storytelling! It is ringing so true. Guests want value in service too. We all want to be appreciated. Talk to the guests a daily basis and when something comes up you are already there. No need to only get the brunt end of a light up stick. If you show care and concern with all guests (good too), the bad ones are never so angry. They see you out there caring for the quality of food and service. Self eval, what are you doing to insure your game? View it as your mom and not just a guest. I agree with Mark, personal accountability and realize you cannot control the .5% that will try and get free stuff, but do not assume that everyone is the .5%, there still is 99.5% that wanted to eat with you in the first place.

Comment by Mark Frank on February 5, 2009 at 7:05am

So many pearls of wisdom in this little story, with some creativity I think most of us can find others and ourselves in what you’ve said here. It is so easy to pass along responsibility too someone else, like the Laundromat supervisor essence making it someone else's responsibility. I’ve found customers just want their problem solved. Just fix it, is the message I get from your post, be nice and make the customer happy. Also, when someone is invited in there is a certain level of personal responsibility for their action (Coke machine).


Comment by Paul Paz on February 5, 2009 at 5:55am

Very good storyteling.

An additional thought... many FOH & BOH hourly staff are being pressed to work larger stations, more customers, more pressure and not for a whole lot of money. The work hours are closely monitored and paydays are smaller as a result.

In the end, that's a lot of stress: keeping up with the increased workload, keeping your job; keeping the management happy, keeping the customers happy, keeping your peers happy.

Given the thousands of face-to-face encounters each day, week and month in these stressful times... it isn't always going to be perfect. There's going to be complaints about service and food quality not because the staff didn't care... but because they were just plain overwhelmed!

So for those who don't ply the FOH & BOH crafts daily... a little understanding and support, PLEASE. Very few FOH BOH staff come to work with the intent of p****** of the customer, peers, or the boss. Most wnat to to a good job. The company leadership (that includes key hourly staff) need to step it up and inspire and coach their staff to accomplishing a GREAT job!

Comment by Bharat Mansukhani on February 4, 2009 at 9:27pm
Andy, that was a nice one. The only difference being you don't get much out of a 50 cents. But a great motivational story for all the servers, bartenders or those who come in contact with customers on a day to day basis.

Comment by Robert Dominguez on February 4, 2009 at 8:48pm
As always, great stuff Andy. Indifference to the needs of the guest might have been accepted in the past, but not today. You have to be aware of the guest's needs at all times or they will make everyone else is aware that you're not.




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