Business and Operations
Pizza on fire: What are you delivering?
By Tom Stankiewicz
By Tom Stankiewicz
In many cases, it’s not the owner’s face that is being associated with
the business but the faces of its staff. Our customers interact with our
employees on a regular basis for different reasons.
In many cases, it’s not the owner’s face that is being associated with the business but the faces of its staff. Our customers interact with our employees on a regular basis for different reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that each employee has favourite customers and, if he or she is working the front counter, also knows most of them by name. The opposite is true as well. Most customers have their favourite staff whom they would prefer to handle their pizza order. If an employee is absent they very often ask what happened. It’s a win-win situation for clients and your business to encourage and support this type of positive customer service interaction.
During the hiring process, we look for certain individuals to fulfil specific roles in our pizza stores. That being said, we are also looking for different skills depending on the position we’re filling. For instance, you expect your front counter staff to provide superior face-to-face customer service, whereas your pizza delivery people need to be fast and excellent drivers. Over my many years in the pizza industry, I, along with other pizza owners, have identified this latter group of employees – delivery drivers – as one that all of us should pay extra attention to when hiring. It’s tempting and easy to hire the first person you interview in a pinch, but the real challenge is to pick the best driver who will stick around for a while.
It’s a given that the person must have a reliable car to deliver pizzas. You’re looking at lower sales and potentially losing your clients if your driver calls you every week to tell you that he or she can’t make it to work because his or her car has broken down again. My first question to a potential driver is always what model year and car they drive. Over the years, I have had to tell some of them that their car wouldn’t last long delivering pizza and I couldn’t hire them. Another important step that you should never overlook is getting a copy of your candidate’s driver’s licence and car insurance. The last thing you want is a driver who is illegally on the road.
You also need a driver you can trust. Obviously, trusting someone you just met isn’t easy to do. I’m sure all of us have had experiences with drivers who are always short money at the end of the night or somehow disappear with cash from a few pizza deliveries. It helps to ask for referrals. Ask your friends or family if they know someone who would be interested in this position. From my own experience, it’s usually better if you hire someone who has been recommended by someone you know. If that avenue has been exhausted already, then my rule of thumb is to schedule a new driver for just two hours a day at the beginning and observe how he or she is doing. This is also a perfect opportunity to evaluate how fast the person is with deliveries, whether he or she can follow directions, and how comfortable the person is with the surrounding delivery area. If it takes 30 minutes to deliver a pizza that every other driver does in 15 minutes, then that should be a serious concern.
As we have many customers who always get their pizza delivered, the physical appearance and behaviour of the delivery driver is also important. This is potentially the only person clients will see delivering your product to their door. We all know that first impressions count and they aren’t easily forgotten. How would you feel if your pizza were delivered by someone who had a cigarette in his mouth and greeted you with a few unpleasant words? My guess is that first you would call back to complain and then you would never order food from that pizza business again. Although delivery drivers don’t work at the front counter, it’s important to remember that they have face-to-face interactions with the higher percentage of your customers. These encounters may last no longer than one minute, but during that time frame you may lose a customer. I think it’s necessary to let your drivers know you expect them to be on their best behaviour during work hours. They don’t need to start up intimate conversations with customers but they should understand that “please” and “thank you” are definitely welcomed. Many experienced drivers will tell you that being grumpy doesn’t have a great payoff at the end of the night when they count their tips.
As business owners, it is in our best interest to have a conversation with each of our employees and explain to them what great customer service is all about. If you have a specific vision and you expect them to use certain phrases, then it is your responsibility to let them know. This should be included in your training package. Take time to explain to your employees that each of them is a representative of your business, no matter how small that business may be. Therefore, it’s important their behaviour be consistent with the great quality of customer service your business has been providing over the years.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.