March 28, 2013 |

Ask Big Dave: Employee morale

By Dave Ostrander

Photo by Josh Keown

Q: I have a large group meet here on Thursdays, and they spend a lot of money. My staff gets bummed when they come because it’s frantic for a few hours. What gives?

A: One of my customer service counter people turned to the kitchen and announced that four carloads and a tour bus just pulled into my parking lot. The heads up was appropriate but the choice of nouns was shocking to me. I like a good laugh as well as the next person and love a practical joke. But there is one thing we cannot joke about: our customers.

They are the reason we go to work. They pay all of our bills, send our kids to school, put food on our tables and a roof over our heads. It was obvious that I hadn’t been reinforcing this message with my staff. At least one of them and probably a few more were mentally whining that they would have to bust their tails for a while.

It was obvious to me that I had the beginnings of a fatal disease creeping into my staff’s thinking. I was going to have to give them all a check up from the neck up.

Loving customers isn’t culturally hip. A lot of attitudes learned by our employees are absorbed from what they see and hear from their peers, television, radio and video games. The real world is not the real business world. Reality restaurant is not a joke du jour.

Your staff cannot deliver excellent service to your customers if they have never personally experienced it themselves. Many of your crew might think that great customer service sounds like, “Would you like ketchup with your fries?” It’s our job to educate them on what the standards of great customer service are in our restaurants.

Often, my staff would go above and beyond in numerous ways. For example, my delivery drivers would sometimes replaced burned-out light bulbs on front porches. This mindset of true, sincere customer service is exactly what is missing today. The next opportunity you or your staff get to blow the customer away by fixing a problem, do it. Then smile and say, “It’s my pleasure.”

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today.