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Foodservice

Rotten Robbie’s Fountain of Cleanliness and Friendliness

'Our intention is to do well in every category'

In this year’s mystery shop, Rotten Robbie was the only chain to score 100% overall in the fountain category, mastering machine and area cleanliness, keeping supplies fully stocked and all beverage flavors on the machines operational.

But Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., humbly dismisses the distinction.

“Our intention is to do well in every category. The reality is that the fountain is right next to the coffee,” he says. “In both instances, we’re trying to keep it wiped up, keep it clean, make sure the coffee is made.

“There’s a lot of classic blocking and tackling, and sometimes you tackle better and sometimes you block better.”

The challenge in any category, he believes, is, ironically, the customer. “If you happen to come in, and I’ve cleaned it, and you don’t mess it up, it stays clean,” he says. “Or, conversely, if you come in and you use it, it’s going to be a little bit messier.”

Rotten Robbie scored just behind Rutter’s in the coffee bar overall, racking up 100% scores for keeping the area clean and fully stocked.

But Robinson is most concerned with how his employees treat customers. The company does its own mystery shopping, which Robinson said is focused “more on friendliness than cleanliness.”

The goal is to reward employees for being friendly—“more carrot than stick,” he says. “We focus on the person. We can tell if the person is friendly or not. If they’re not, it’s their own fault, vs. a light being out or the restroom being clean. That may or may not be directly related to that particular person.”

For the Rotten Robbie program, an employee must do more than greet the customer, smile, make eye contact and say “Thank you.” To get the maximum reward, an employee must also make the customer aware of promotions: “two-fors” for example, such as two energy drinks for $3. “We felt that was good customer service too,” Robinson says.

Rotten Robbie also managed to provide good customer service quickly. The chain scored highest in the covert audit on the acceptability of its wait times.

Managers at Rotten Robbie are compensated with monthly bonuses that are in part based on housekeeping and restrooms. But more important, Robinson says, is that companies do better in all aspects of running a store when there is less turnover. “Generally, our turnover is lower than average,” Robinson says.

Rotten Robbie also scored well in the restroom categories.

“Back in the old days, gas station restrooms were outside,” he says. “We realized a long time ago that restrooms needed to be inside. That’s not any new magic: When they are inside, they are maintained a lot better.”

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