It was 8 in the morning, two hours before Capriotti's in Reno was scheduled to open, when the call came in and the owner happened to be there, prepping for the day.
"I need to pick up 5 large subs in 20 minutes. I'm driving straight through and need those sandwiches to take to a meeting."
The owner explained that the shop didn't open for another couple of hours, he would be happy to take the order and have them ready right at ten, when they opened the door.
"I'm just driving through", explained the driver, "I'll be long out of town by 10. Can you help me out?"
The owner, having great skills, a desire to succeed in business, and understanding his competition, said:
"Yes, of course. I'll have them ready when you get here. Just knock and I'll unlock the door."
The customer came in about 30 minutes later, purchased the sandwiches, and left. It was a few days later that the owner received a call from a friend of that customer, explaining that his buddy was so pleased with the sandwiches and the service, that he wanted to use the shop to cater a meeting in the area. That second customer ordered more than $1,500 worth of sandwiches.
How many ways can a sandwich shop differentiate itself? There's the quality of the bread, the quality of the fillings, the size of the sandwich, the variety of fillings, and price. Many, many sandwich shops can compete in those criteria. There's a shop in Montana called the Staggering Ox that differentiates itself by using oddly shaped large loaves they hollow out. They're called Clubfoot sandwiches. Other than the bread, though, and perhaps some interesting combinations of ingredients and sauces, how can they differentiate? How will they compete with Subway and Quizno's? SERVICE. Granted, Capriotti's makes some killer sandwiches. I would drive significantly out of my way to get a large Italian sub with all the toppings. But really, it's the service that keeps me coming back. When I receive anything less than stellar service, I have to wonder how badly the owner of that business wants to succeed? It makes me think the owner just isn't hungry enough. With so many decent sandwich shops around, service is the key to survival and success.
Customer: You never know whether a service provider can or will bend the rules for you, you can only ask. Of course, being direct, kind, patient, and understanding what you are asking will help. Being a considerate customer, you will more likely find an advocate on the other end of the conversation. Pass along the good experience, especially when a company gives you special treatment. The only way for these companies to survive and thrive is for people like you to return and bring friends. Good service brings you back, exceptional service brings you back with friends and a positive story to share.
Owner/Server: You prove you want to keep your customers by going out of your way in meeting their needs. By providing exceptional service, you not only increased your opportunities for positive feedback and a return customer, you helped your customers meet goals and look good. Who doesn't want to look good for their peers? Want to survive and thrive in the restaurant business? Service is your differentiation point. Find your service niche among options with which you can live. Can you offer flexible hours of service? What about including a fountain drink with a meal? Lemon slices in your water glasses? Servers that are empowered to give a discount or complementary drink or dessert when a meal takes too long? Work with your servers and cooks to come up with ideas. Because your front-of-the-house employees know what works with their customers to keep them coming back, they are great resources for brainstorming customer service ideas. Implement your special service ideas quietly and consistently. You cannot create your own reputation, your customers must!