Remember when “shifting paradigms” was the buzz phrase back in the 90’s? It became “marketing speak” and just like any great phrase it got used and abused and eventually lost its meaning. I’m bringing it back for this blog because quite honestly I can’t think of a better way to communicate my point.
Shifting a paradigm is described by Wikipedia as follows:
a profound change in a fundamental model or perception of events,
a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing
When it comes to providing customer service in the restaurant business, I believe we need to shift several paradigms. Notice in the aforementioned definitions we see the words profound, radical, major change. Of course it’s human nature, when we hear this type of language to dig our heels in. We’ve just been through the worst recession since the great depression and we have 13 million unemployed Americans. Most of us are still working on stabilizing the ship and I want to talk about radical change? Is this necessary, now when most businesses are just starting to come out of the dark hole they’ve been in for more than 2 years? The answer is absolute YES and here’s why.
While most restaurant companies have been bailing water to keep their ships from sinking (protecting against financial disaster), it seems the top line has become a secondary consideration. The good news is many companies have learned to run lean. Others have gone beyond trimming the fat and have cut into the bone, that’s bad news. The worst news is age old paradigms have dropped anchor and seem to be more ingrained than ever. Allow me to offer some examples of paradigms that continue to plague our industry:
- Managers using command and control style which was appropriate in the industrial age, not in the information age.
- Managers believing that the work ethic isn’t what it used to be.
- Employees just passing through, going through the motions until they can find “a real job” (and managers allowing this to be the prevailing attitude)
- Organizations and managers focused on weekly results without enough emphasis on long term thinking.
- Managers refusing to let go, believing that the restaurant will never run up to standards unless he or she is in the building.
While the degree varies, most restaurant organizations are stuck in each one of these paradigms and it’s my contention that the time is now to begin the shift.
Why am I sounding the alarm? At the risk of stating the obvious here are the primary reasons:
✴ Consumers continue to become more savvy. Their expectations are higher than they’ve ever been and there is every reason to expect this trend to continue.
✴ There’s no more “protecting the brand” because the perception of your brand is now in the hands of the consumer. People make purchase decisions based more on what their Facebook friends say vs. what you say.
✴ With the explosion of social media and technology advancements your customers can “spread the word” in real time to literally thousands of their friends and followers. If you don’t believe me check out these stats...
- 50% of people login to social networking sites regularly throughout the day
- 43% of people check social networking sites before going to bed, 1 in 5 check when they wake up
- 28% of people have uploaded a picture of a meal they were eating to a social site, this increases to 47% for 18–34 year olds
- 27% of respondents expected a response within 3 days when complaining via a company web site, 1 in 5 expected a response within an hour on Twitter or on Facebook
- 48% of 18 – 34 year olds check Facebook as soon as they wake up
Shifting paradigms is hard work. It requires investment spending on training in areas like change management, communication, leadership development, customer service and social media. This is always accompanied by a short term negative hit on the P&L. I can understand why most restaurant operators don’t even want to entertain the conversation. Life is getting better (in relative terms) so why should I investment spend?
I think the answer is pretty clear. I would love to hear your thoughts...