Opinion: How Can You Be Out?

Failure to deliver on core values is a recipe for lost customers

The Webster dictionary defines the word “core” as “a thing or place of greatest importance or significance; most important or most basic.” It is believed that all businesses have core products or services that identify their specific brand or reputation, and for which they are known. You must ensure these things are constantly available to customers, guests, patrons, etc.

With that being stated, please explain to this questioning individual how the following scenarios can take place.

A dinner group of three couples visits a national, upper-end Italian chain on a Saturday evening. One of the guests orders lasagna--a specialty of the restaurant--and the server promptly replies, “We are out of lasagna.” Six jaws drop and a look of disbelief ensues, followed by an, “Are you kidding me?” to which the server emphatically states, “Happens more than you would ever imagine.”

How can such a core element be missed?

Another classic: a lunch meeting at one of Houston’s favorite steakhouses, where one member of the group orders the luncheon chopped steak. The unanticipated server response: “Sorry, we are out of the chopped steak.” How difficult is it for the back of the house to grind more sirloin so that such a core menu item is always available?

How does this happen?

One more for you: the Saturday before the July 4th holiday, a customer stops at the neighborhood grocer, a national chain, to buy spareribs to smoke (we do this in Texas, as opposed to the grilling those of you in the North do). None, nothing, nada, zero. When asked how this can be, the butcher explains the department manager failed to order it. You can’t get more “core” than ordering properly.

How can you be out? This applies to so many things, events and happenings in our lives, and I am amazed by the frequency of such outages when and where we least expect it.

Isn’t the ownership or management aware of what makes this product or place so special to so many? How can they fail to recognize and nurture the core? This is reflective of failing to feed the goose and then wondering why there is no golden egg production.

As a restaurant manager stated regarding one such loss of the core: “It is only one moment in time,” and it can be corrected. But what do you do about the negative operational standards when all of those ‘one moments in time’ fill an hourglass? How do you justify the simple fact that you are not performing at the required level to compete, win and continually create fantastic customer experiences?

“Moments” are the very core of hours, days, weeks, months and years. Lifetimes are made from nothing more than moments in time. As operators, we must ensure that each moment a patron shares with us is special and to be warmly remembered.

Jim Fisher is the CEO of IMST Corp in Houston. For more than 20 years, IMST has provided comprehensive site analysis and sales forecasting to a wide range of convenience retailers. Reach Jim at [email protected]


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