Building customer traffic

I have been spending a few hours today thinking and working on this subject by reading everything that might relate. I checked the marketing forum for things that would trigger my mind in different directions and then the Think Tank. We know the product is at the top of list, customer servicing efficiency, a clean facility, etc. I do not claim to be any highly cerebral person but I miss some very obvious things sometimes.

Something (s) struck me. My wife and I have attended a couple of Christmas holiday dinners the last week in restaurants. The restaurants were independents that have been in our area for 30 to 40 years. This last Thursday it was an Italian restaurant with a million pictures of great singers like Sinatra, Dean Martin and many others. There were the obligatory record covers, signed autographs, pictures of scenes in Vegas with Sinatra, Martin, Sammy Davis, etc. The food was good but not great from what I tasted and looked at around the big table. Thursday night and the place was packed. Our host is a regular and had reservations. He said the place is always busy. So I watched intently throughout the evening everything that happened. The owner was not there but his daughter was. Our host said that when the owner is there he walks the floor and talks to everybody. He knows everybody. His daughter was much the same. Both of them apparently “work the floor” as their main activity. At one point a server came over to me and said he recognized me from my place which was about two miles away. He came over twice during the evening to say something to me in a semi (acceptable) voice about my place. I walked out of there thinking, because of the total experience, that I am going back and soon.

So what is the point here? I am always thinking and reading about how we can do better. I regularly visit other restaurants (benchmarking) to get ideas and stimulate thinking. All of this along with the operational requirements. I have not noticed any advertisements for the restaurant mentioned above so why are they so busy? They “work the floor”, they are engaging their customers and you get the feeling that they really enjoy it. They remember names, occasions and other interesting things about their customers. I am an outgoing person but I have a pizza restaurant to run so I think I have to spend my time in the back and with cashiers, etc. I have to set up specials, advertisements, coupons or whatever. We get tired and some of us (me) just cannot go out and just chit chat with customers all the time (even if we actually like it as I actually do). It is work, a different kind of work, but it is work and sometimes I forget that it might be the most important work to be done. It may mean that the time I just spent “working the floor” is going to cost me because I still have to complete my managerial tasks. The owner is the most important person to the customers. It has nothing to do with our personalities, brilliance, intelligence or special charisma in the main; it is because customers simply want to talk to the “boss”. They want to be remembered and many of them have special stories that are interesting. All of us are susceptible when someone, especially the “boss”, remembers our names or something about us. Sometimes employees cannot make the experienced and heartfelt connection but if that employee remembers my name they have me even though I know the game.

I am not sure why I am posting all this but for me this is a renewal therapy. This is a people business and I am determined to get back to “working the floor”. I am going to make friends and customers and as a side benefit, build the business to a higher level. Can it be done in a small pizza place with limited seating, carry out and delivery? We have one location that is in the community where I live so I at least stop there once or twice a day. A customer last week motioned for me to come talk to him. I was thinking problem. He said I want you to know that he comes from (a city some distance from us) just to buy your pizza but it also because everybody is so friendly and helpful here, they take care of me. There must be 10 pizza places between his house and our business. This was a Friday so there were many other customers close by and they heard everything. Thank you for the testament.

Building a business one customer at a time they say. Well, even if I take a few days off that is about 300 new customers a year. What is my ticket average? How many times will a customer buy pizza in a week or a month? We are talking about some serious increases here. What about the happy customers who tell their friends?

Why is it that sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult?
I remember reading years ago that the difference between successful people in business and the ones not so successful people is that the people who are not so successful mostly do the things they like to do instead of doing the things they should do to drive their business.

This a random lengthy post, sorry about that. I am off to make friends and customers tonight.

Nice post! Very true, especially for guys with actual dining rooms. I’ve seen people build an empire because of their charisma. Sadly, I wasn’t born with it… I try though.

We have a few of the indys that have been here for 30-40 years that rock as well. While the personal service is certainly a part of their success, to an extent that’s only possible if you’ve been around so long. After 30-40 years you are serving generations of the same family, you’ve watched many of your customers grow up and for some, probably been a part of their lives. You’ve hosted rehersal dinners, wedding receptions, graduation parties and anniversaries. You’ve sponsored their little league team, carpooled them to swim practice with your child, given them their first teenage job. While some small talk can sometimes be helpful, relationships with a large customer base take years and years to build.

Another thing that happens over the years is that you have a large number of former employees in town. We have been here 18 years and in that time have had a couple of hundred employees I would guess. There are people who had a job with us in high school that now have kids that might be applying for a job soon! I have former employees who, in some cases I have written recommendations for, that are now nurses, teachers, contractors, business owners, insurance brokers, professional musicians and more.

The same is true for people who used to be sales reps for our vendors or own businesses which we buy services from and have now done business together for close to two decades.

These relationships are cumulative… and are not limited to your customer relationships.

:rolleyes: dang! i gotta get on my sheet! I am working my tiny ass dining room for the rest of the night!