Blowing Up Age Old Paradigms



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...

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  • Hi Bill happy to be your friend, it is 11,15 PM i will write to you tomorow, welcome and Good night Giuseppe
  • Nothing earth shattering Bill.  Thanks to Web 2.0 consumers/buyers have been empowered.  Thanks to all the information that is flowing out there, the engagement via social networking, people tend to be more informed about their needs and decision making when it comes to acquiring a need.  Moving ahead, thanks to the penetration of smartphones, purchasers of needs will have enhanced decision making powers at point of purchase.  Sellers will need to listen and be flexible to stay in the game.

  • Thanks for the comment Jim... I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on the "pull" economy.
  • At the end of the day (hee, hee, ....) I agree with you Bill. Solid post! Welcome to the "pull" economy.
  • Thanks for commenting Steve.  I totally agree this is not a time to "wait and see".  Like that famous line from that not so famous Risky Business, "Sometimes you just gotta say what the f---!"  You gotta go for it!  You gotta make your move... It takes a long to to shift a paradigm so those who get started now should complete the shift in 2-3 years.  I appreciate you reading my stuff Steve.  Have a wonderful day.. BC
  • Great commentary Bill and one that is pervasive as far as I can tell in several aspects of the business; management, staff, and consultant alike.  I suppose the metaphor of the Industrial Age vs. the Age of Online Social is pretty apt, but the challenge is in primarily getting the management to see the difference from what was before to what is now. 


    Does the industry have time to adapt?  Sure... but not a lot of time.  The more relevant observation IMHO is that the change is not about them, it's about the customer and how the customer is becoming more savvy and demanding, essentially in a public forum, that the merchant change their ways.  No mistake about it, consumers vote with their dollars and the people who figure out how to apply the new paradigm will surpass the wait-and-see crowd.

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