A Time to Wow

We all enjoyed being wowed from time to time. 

We especially like being wowed when we are not expecting to be. Who hasn’t been dragged to an event that we expected to be a yawner, and have benn pleasantly wowed?  It’s nice.

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years managing food service sales reps.  In that time, I interviewed hundreds of candidates for those positions.  I never looked forward to those days spent interviewing.  After the third or fourth interview, all candidates seemed alike.  “I really like food and I really like people and I really like to go out to eat so I thought that I’d be perfect.”  It was almost as if they had taken the same “sucking at an interview-101” course. 

Every so often, I would get wowed.  It was a nice change from the normal,  Every so often that special person would come in, apparently very sure of themselves, full of positive energy, incredibly persistent, unwilling to get sidetracked, they would even have shades of charisma.

Inevitably, I would hire these people …who wouldn’t?  During their first month on the road after training they would open a score of new accounts, usually in places where many would tell us that we already had all the business.   Inevitably, however, these folks would be gone in three to five months.  This didn’t happen once; this happened once a year.  Every time I got wowed, this person would look like a super-star after a couple of months on the job.  I would beam thinking that my great judgment had been validated.  A couple of months later, they would be gone.  What was I doing wrong?

I was hiring the wrong person. 

That person who wowed me might do a great job at selling cars or computers or jet engines or sales managers …any selling job where they would need to have a quick and immediate impact.  Successful food service sales people build long-term relationships. 

You folks who run restaurants, yes, you might get wowed at first and give that dynamic new food service rep an application.  But you also quickly get tired of the pushy, unrelenting, “this is the product that will solve your problems” type of sales person.  Usually, you are justifiably pushing this guy out the door after a few months. 

The person who will win your trust and respect over long-term is not the person who will wow you on the first visit.  It’s the person who gives a crap about the customer (you) that (s)he is servicing; who takes the time to learn their customer’s business, their customer’s wants and needs, and their likes and dislikes. 

The same sort of thing can happen with a waitstaff:

they are your restaurant’s salesperson.  The super-waiter who can upsell an appetizer or dessert, who will relentlessly sell the blackboard specials; they may be wearing themselves thin with your clientele.  These are the same people that will get all of the accolades after their first couple of weeks.  A few months later, they too are gone along with many of the customers who were wowed by them.      

As a patron in your restaurant, I will be impressed, perhaps amused, by this person on my first couple of visits.  It won’t take long, however, before I tire of the “antics.”  I am here in your restaurant to eat and enjoy the food and atmosphere, not to be sold, or worse …hounded.  As a matter of fact, as a customer in your restaurant, I hope to be treated the same way you expect to be treated when doing business with your suppliers.  Kind of sounds like the Golden Rule, doesn’t it?    

So don’t try to Wow them with your sales pitch, you are probably driving away customers more than driving up the check average.  WOW them with your service and food …that will get them coming back.  And remember …no butts in seats = no check average = no food cost = an expensive commercial kitchen.

You know all this stuff, but you get so overwhelmed with so much crap that sometimes you can forget the basics.  So please, just smile your way back into the kitchen, find a pot with some peas in it, and just stir the frigg’n peas.


The toughest thing about success is that you have got to keep on being a success.   ---Irving Berlin

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