Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I just came back from a quick "Run to the Border," where I needed to feed an urge for nachos and Mountain Dew (NOT the nasty Taco Bell exclusive Baja Blast). While I was walking over there, sitting and eating, and coming back, a few things happened that brought some thoughts to mind.

First, there was the point at which I placed my order. Now, in restaurant work, especially quick-service, everyone should be trained to do what is called suggestive selling. This is the system that breeds the ubiquitous question "Do you want fries with that?" This takes what a customer orders, and makes a suggestion connected to it. For example, someone who orders 3 tacos and 2 burritos should be suggested a drink. Or, perhaps a jar of Tums. But I digress. The point is to take what someone knows they want, and recommend an addition. This is what your server is doing every time they ask "Did you save room for dessert?"

The basic suggestive sell is a flat line, with no thought. It's pre-scripted, and usually highlights whatever is new or management imposed this week. It's asking if you want to value size your combo, pushing a special, whatever. It's not bad, but, if you want better results, you need to learn even better suggestive methods. For example, try to evaluate what the customer just bought, and suggest based on that. Did they buy a whole meal? Suggest an entree that combines many of what you are selling them. Did they buy a light snack? Suggest a different snack. I, for example, probably could have been sold a caramel apple empanada to go with my nachos. But I didn't see it on the menu, because I didn't look at the menu.

But, was I suggested one? No. Instead, the girl at the register took my order, took my money, then when my order popped up on the kitchen screen, the lady in the kitchen said "All you want is nachos?" My thought response: "Mainly. If I wanted more now, though, you'd be out of luck, I don't swipe my card twice in a fast-food joint." (not to mention that, if I had bought another low-cost item, taco bell would have been out another credit card fee, probably another 15-20 cents, which is a lot when you are dealing with $2 orders.)

What could they have done? Cashier/order-taker girl should have offered me something more. She knows I'm hungry, she saw I didn't even look at the menu, or she should have seen I didn't. She didn't catch, consider, connect, and complete what needed to happen. Is it her fault? Not likely. Training in fast-food typically involves a DVD player and a very bored new hire, mixed with a manager that's paying someone to watch a movie. Not a recipe for success.

(In contrast, I just downloaded a song off iTunes. What's in my cart, looking at me while I complete the purchase? Recommendations, based on what I'm buying. Do I buy? Not this time, but I consider. Due to radio issues, I live in a closed loop of music, so I pay close attention to these suggestions, and I'll probably buy next time.)

Before we beat up poor Taco Bell girl like a pinata, let's pull the lesson out of this. Many people in life are looking for things, especially emotional and spiritual connections. Are you catching that from them? Are you considering how to meet those needs? Connecting people to what they need? And completing the effort, making sure it was successful?

How about in your church? When people come to your church, do you have people ready to hit the 4 C's with them? All the way through complete? We tend to drop the first and last C in churches. We don't catch much, but when we do, we'll consider and connect, but do you complete? Do you vaguely point down the hall to a Sunday School room? Or walk the person down there, introduce them?

Catch it, Consider it, Connect it, Complete it. Not just a good idea in business, but a good idea in life.

Second, while I'm snacking on my nachos, two elderly ladies came in to the Taco Bell. (They might be offended with elderly, might not be, but I say they qualified.) They went to the counter, placed their order, and then filled their drink cups. They then made their way to a table. Meanwhile, the kitchen crew got their order ready. Cashier girl called out the order number. Then she, firmly placed behind the counter, called out "Ma'am, your order's ready!" She tried again. The guy standing at the counter called out the same thing. So did another employee behind the counter. The ladies were faced away from the counter, and couldn't hear anyone.

What was the solution? Well, it seems obvious to me. Does it seem obvious to you? The next customer in line had ordered. There were no other customers waiting. There were 5 employees behind the counter, no cars in the drive-thru, and no cleaning being done (not that some wasn't needed).

So, I got up from my nachos, had counter girl give me the tray, and carried it over to the ladies. They thanked me, I sat down, finished my nachos and walked back to work, pondering.

(Note: if Taco Bell has a "Don't leave the counter to help a customer policy," then it's a dumb policy. Especially since cashier girl and another employee were horsing around into the dining room after this. You can't claim she was told not to leave her spot. She wasn't in her spot when I came in, nor when I left.)

How often do we do this? There is a blatantly obvious solution, serve someone, help someone. But we'd rather yell after them. I'm convicted of this in our church. How much do we yell after people rather than go them and tell them? How often do we use our voices instaed of our legs?

How much do we try to make up for a lack of service by using extra words?


PS---Any QSR mangers in Monticello or SE Arkansas wanting to provide real training for your people, send me an email. We can put together something, and it will be worth the investing of our time and money.

PS #2: Direct applications abound. I want to leave them mostly up to you. But I would pass this on to Southern Baptist denominational leadership. Not that many of them would listen. And most of the ones that would aren't the ones that need to hear it.

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