From the Editor’s Desk: September-October 2016
Consistent isn’t boring
There is room for both independent and chain restaurants, says a recent report on the U.S. food service landscape by research firm Higdon & Sink. “Are We Chain Obsessed?” looks at the strengths and weaknesses of each and concludes that because consumers embrace both formats, the two have plenty to learn from each other.
Many people (more than 60 per cent) don’t have a strong preference for one over the other, the report says. They like independent restaurants for the high quality of their food, their perceived authenticity and the overall dining experience they offer. They like chains for their availability, variety and consistency.
In Canada, the scales seem to be tipped a bit more in favour of chains. According to the 2015 Canadian Chain Restaurant Industry Review, just over 63 per cent of restaurant sales in Canada happen at a branded chain.
Across Canada, the ratio of chain sales to independent sales is roughly 65:35, except in Quebec, where there is more of a balance (55:45), the review says.
The Higdon & Sink report has value for both chains and independents. It suggests it’s not an either-or proposition for customers and that each sector can look to the other’s strengths for ways to improve.
I want to single out consistency as something chains are known for but on which everyone can stand to improve. I’m not talking about the way your sauce holds together – although that’s part of the mix – but about uniformity and dependability of your product and service.
Despite what you may think,consistent doesn’t have to mean boring. It often means comfort for customers: they want to be comfortable with the food – and the value – they receive at a pizzeria.
We may well read online reviews with some skepticism, knowing that every reviewer has their own idea of what’s good. But satisfaction all comes down to expectations being met and managed. You can manage expectations by accurately and thoroughly communicating your menu, your hours and your policies to your customers. If they know what to expect, they have less reason to complain.
If you think about it, every area of your pizzeria can benefit from a consistent approach. Your pizza will be consistently good if you develop strong and, ideally, long-term relationships with suppliers who offer high-quality ingredients. It will taste consistently good – and hopefully turn you a profit – if you develop a portioning system your prep staff can follow.
Your staff will be happier and perform consistently well if you let them know what you expect from them and what they may expect from you. Provide them with thorough and regular food safety training, clear guidance on how to handle customer complaints, clear rules on vacation policies, and clear instructions on food safety and cleaning procedures.
Your customer service will be more consistently good if you give front-of-house staff clear guidance on how to handle customer complaints, a house policy on tipping and tip sharing, and a clear reward for service that exceeds your and your customers’ expectations.
Finally, a consistent commitment to learning will help ensure that your business and your product are never boring! We encourage you to register and come out to the Canadian Pizza Show on Oct. 17. Kick-start your promotional strategy, discover new products to make your work day and night easier and pick up creative ideas from Canada’s top pizza chefs. See you there!