I was on a road trip and in sore need of a quick break. Since I wasn’t the one doing the driving, I did a quick search to see what was nearby that was out-of-the-ordinary. I found a chain quick serve restaurant that’s I’d been wanting to check out—and since it does not have a location in my area, figured this was as good a chance as any.
We pulled off the highway and found the store easily enough. There were few cars in the lot and no one in the drive-through, which was probably reasonable enough given it was past normal mealtime hours. We parked and walked in.
Three employees were grouped behind the counter, chatting. Despite the random straw wrapper on the floor, and the tables that looked like they’d had recent use, no one was cleaning or organizing supplies. I immediately flashed to what a dear friend, who owned a local franchise, would have said: “You’ve got time to lean? You’ve got time to clean.”
My travel companion and I stood in front of the counter, gazing up at the unfamiliar menu board, trying to sort out something for a quick snack that would still give me a good sample of what they offered. (Yes, it’s true that working in food means you are never truly off the clock when food is in front on you!)
One of the employees came over and just stood, staring at us. No welcome, no, “Can I help you.” When the staring got uncomfortable enough, I said, “We’ve never been here before. Any suggestions?”
There’s a great cue for any employee in any restaurant anywhere to talk about local favorites, personal favorites, best sellers, things the restaurant is known for, or the freshest items. What we got was, “No, not really. It’s all just there.”
Defeated, we made our selections and paid at the counter, then watched as one of the other employees began assembling our order.
I wondered what might have been different if they’d known I was currently working with a competitor’s chain to help them define a new strategy.
I wondered what might have been different if they’d known I’d spent years researching the value of customer service and knew the difference it could make in their own future. Or if they would care if I contacted their corporate CEO, who was on my mailing list, to tell about my experience.
I even wondered if they worried about social media reviews.
But I already knew the answer. These employees, and by default this restaurant, this franchise holder—maybe even this chain—didn’t really care about customers. They didn’t care enough to train their people, to inject enthusiasm, to set standards. They didn’t care enough to greet the customer, smile, know the menu, or build a better workplace environment for themselves, to help themselves stand out and move up the ladder.
The food equaled the rest of our treatment: lackluster, tasteless, and uninspired. After all, when the total experience is part of the enjoyment of food, what else would you expect?
I wonder if it would make a difference, if you really knew who was coming through your door?