Great Service

What constitutes great service when you go to a restaurant?

This is one of these things that are difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it, or better yet, when you experience it.

Some times we go to a restaurant where the service is so obviously poor that there is no question about it: long delays, rude or inattentive waiters, mistakes with the food or drinks orders that don’t get compensated, apologized, etc.

We know that it has been poor service and we can totally account and

However, other times, although everything seems OK, we have the impression that something is missing. Yes, the waiters were on time and yes, they delivered the food and drinks that we ordered in a reasonable time and yet, however, something is missing: I will call it the WOW factor.

You see? We humans are very tuned, although many times, in a subconscious level, to the feelings and moods of other people. If a waiter is unhappy, or just has a bad day, you will notice. That mood, that unhappiness will be transmitted to the people who their customers.

The reverse is also true. A happy, sincerely smiling waiter, transmits their happiness to their clients, chatting with them and making them feel good. It doesn’t matter that much if they make a mistake or forget some food item because their tables will feel connected with them and understand and forgive their mistakes.

This seems unfair, after all, every person has the right to be moody or unhappy. So how does the waiters mood or disposition relate to the restaurant owners or managers? What can you do if they have unhappy faces or unhappy lives?

Well, to start with, many of the unhappiness of your employees could probably be related to your work environment.

You should ask yourself. Are your employees happy to work for your restaurant? Happy to work for you? If you try to squeeze as much as you can from them, they will resent you and transmit this resentment to their tables, to your clients!

I mention in my online seminar that the quality of your restaurant is as good as the quality of your weakest link. If your employees are not happy working for you, your clients will suffer the consequences.

I am not saying that you need to bend backwards to please your employees. After all, they are also human and therefore always want the best for themselves, even if they are not being fair with their fellow coworkers.

What I am saying is that you should provide your employees with the best work environment that you can (of course while still running a profitable business). Trying to take advantage of your employees by having unreasonable working hours, treating them with disrespect, paying them late, etc. will make them unhappy and will make you lose a lot of money in the long term with your clients.

Happy employees make happy clients. Period.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
jose@riescoconsulting.com
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.

Bad Restaurant Service

This weekend I went with my family and some friends to a trip to Long Beach, WA. On the way, we stopped in a Mexican restaurant to get some lunch.

The place was empty (only the 8 of us and another couple) and we were promptly seated in a long table.

Soon enough, our young (in his late teens or early twenties) waiter came with the nachos, no salsa. When after a while we asked him for some salsa, he smiled and brought it a few minutes later. No big deal.

Then we order our foods. Two members of our party didn’t get their tortillas for their fajitas. We waited and waited but the waiter never came back to check on us. Another woman in our group ordered a Coke that never made it to the table. We needed to get up and look for the waiter who was talking to another guy by the kitchen. Finally a busboy brought us the tortillas when they were almost at the end of the meal.

In the middle of the meal, a terrible noise startled us all. Somebody dropped a whole tray filled with glasses. It made a terrible ruckus and got all the attention from our waiter (although he wasn’t the responsible for the accident). We never saw him again until we had to go again and ask for the check.

They charged us for the coke that we never got but we were ready to leave and didn’t want to make a fuss about $1.65 so we paid and left.

Now, we were in our way to Long Beach and it is doubtful that we will stop in that place for a meal any time soon, but even if I was leaving in that town, I don’t think that I would frequent that place. The food, by the way, was pretty good.

I always said that food in a restaurant is important but service is almost as important. If one of the two fails, the dining experience also fails.

I see often restaurateurs hiring very expensive chefs that get lavishly paid, and compensate their expenses by hiring inexperience (and cheap) servers, often teenagers, who are neither interested in the business nor knowledgeable of what a good dining experience entails.

Don’t make this mistake. Good food with poor service is as bad as bad food with great service. Both need to be in balance if you want your place to succeed. Select the best servers that you can get, train them continuously (teach them the foods, the wines, what makes your place unique and special) and don’t try to squeeze as much money as you can from them. Not only they won’t be motivated to offer an excellent service but they may even resent you and pass that resentment along to your clients.

Remember, the weakest link in your business will setup the standard.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
jose@riescoconsulting.com
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You can find more information about restaurant marketing strategies in my website http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.

What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

<strong>What’s Special About Your Restaurant?</strong>

This is a very important question that you need to answer honestly if you want your place to succeed.

Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you are one of your clients.

What attracts them to your place?

Is it your great food? or perhaps Your convenient location? Are you the cheapest place around? (I hope not or you will have to make your profit in pure volume.) Do you have a signature dish that attracts people? or Live music? or Does your place have great atmosphere and beautiful decoration? Do you have a view? Easy and convenient parking?

Whatever makes your place unique and different is what it’s called in marketing a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and this is the key factor that differentiates your place from any other place.

All restaurants have (or should have) a USP so if yours doesn’t jump at you right away, just sit down when you have a few free minutes (I know, I know, it’s difficult to find free time for a restaurateur but you own to yourself and your business to do this exercise) and write down a list of things that make your place special.

If you are not able to come up with any, ask your staff or any of your regular clients, they may tell you something that you didn’t even thought of.

If nobody can tell you anything special for your place, then you are in trouble my friend, because if you or your people don’t find anything special, nobody else will do. In this case you need to “create” something special. Make a new dish, a new signature cocktail (if you serve alcohol), bring and hang art (from an art school or local artists) in your walls…

Once you finally have your USP, use it in your advertising, make sure that all your employees know about it. Tell your clients. This will resonate with them and will make your place to stand from 90% of other places that have nothing special to offer.

As usual, don’t forget to visit my Web site <a href=”http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com”>Restaurant Marketing Strategies </a> and subscribe to my free newsletter. If you are really serious about improving your business, I strongly recommend you to check my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Seminar. It is free for you to evaluate and I can garantee you, it will improve your business dramatically.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
jose@riescoconsulting.com
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What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

What’s Special About Your Restaurant?

This is a very important question that you need to answer honestly if you want your place to succeed.

Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s pretend that you are one of your clients.

What attracts them to your place?

Is it your great food? or perhaps Your convenient location? Are you the cheapest place around? (I hope not or you will have to make your profit in pure volume.) Do you have a signature dish that attracts people? or Live music? or Does your place have great atmosphere and beautiful decoration? Do you have a view? Easy and convenient parking?

Whatever makes your place unique and different is what it’s called in marketing a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and this is the key factor that differentiates your place from any other place.

All restaurants have (or should have) a USP so if yours doesn’t jump at you right away, just sit down when you have a few free minutes (I know, I know, it’s difficult to find free time for a restaurateur but you own to yourself and your business to do this exercise) and write down a list of things that make your place special.

If you are not able to come up with any, ask your staff or any of your regular clients, they may tell you something that you didn’t even thought of.

If nobody can tell you anything special for your place, then you are in trouble my friend, because if you or your people don’t find anything special, nobody else will do. In this case you need to “create” something special. Make a new dish, a new signature cocktail (if you serve alcohol), bring and hang art (from an art school or local artists) in your walls…

Once you finally have your USP, use it in your advertising, make sure that all your employees know about it. Tell your clients. This will resonate with them and will make your place to stand from 90% of other places that have nothing special to offer.

As usual, don’t forget to visit my Web site Restaurant Marketing Strategies and subscribe to my free newsletter. If you are really serious about improving your business, I strongly recommend you to check my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Seminar. It is free for you to evaluate and I can garantee you, it will improve your business dramatically.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,

Jose L Riesco
jose@riescoconsulting.com
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 http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com

It’s Always Your Fault: Assume it

Paul Arden, famous writer of the best-selling book: “IT’S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT’S HOW GOOD YOU WANT TO BE” (highly recommended read, very small and easy to read book) has a whole chapter titled: IT’S ALL MY FAULT. This is his first paragraph:

“If YOU are involved in something that goes wrong, never blame others. Blame no other but yourself.”

This seems to go against human nature. Whenever there is a problem, we human beings, try always to find a responsible to blame (other than ourselves, of course, we are always very understanding with ourselves).

Restaurants are unique businesses because of the incredible number of problems that could arise (see my free newsletter Problems and Crisis for some hands-down solutions and strategies to cope with daily problems).

However, as owners/ managers we are ultimately responsible for any problems and to come up with solutions.

One of the worst things that you can do, as a leader, is blaming your people (or even worse, as I saw with my own eyes a restaurateur to do: blaming your clients) for anything that goes wrong.

If the food arrives cold or late, or the service is lousy or your place is not well located… you need to assume responsibility and think of ways to improve it and make it right.

Restaurant business is a people business and as such, subject to human errors.

Your waiters may trip and spill food over your clients, your chef or cooks may have a bad day when the food doesn’t taste as good as usual, five things break at the same time, somebody gets sick and you are short on personnel…

Your job is no to blame people for these problems, it is to find solutions and make your clients happy regardless of what happened. Your clients are not responsible for your problems so blaming your staff in front of them to excuse the problem doesn’t help you at all.

Your clients are also people and therefore understand that things can go wrong. It is only when the big ego of many restaurant owners gets in the middle that things start going south.

If a clients don’t like their food, don’t argue with them. Instead, offer them a solution: change their food, offer them another dish (if they really don’t like that one), give them a refund if they lost their appetite. If the food arrives late, apologize and offer the clients a compensation. Perhaps a free entree if there is a party (you will still make a profit), or a free dessert if they are not spending much money.

People always appreciate the willingness to fix problems.

If one of your waiters trips over and spills food, don’t get mad at them. Offer your client to pay for their dry cleaning and give them a free meal. They will be happy and you won’t make a scene in front of your clientele. Besides, getting mad at the waiter will only make them more nervous and clumsy and can bring more unfortunate events.

Of course, if you see that one specific person is very clumsy, careless and prone to accidents, you should consider replacing that person (probably they are in the wrong job anyway) but don’t deal with this issue in front of your clients when your place is full of people.

At the end, you are responsible for hiring your employees, for training them and for motivating them. If they don’t perform up to the (high I presume) standards that you’ve setup for your place, you should ask yourself why.

Is there a lack of training, of interest, of skills? If so, they are fixable. You can setup a training program, motivate your employees by explaining your philosophy and rewards system…

If, however, an employee is hopeless or dishonest, get rid of them. The world is full of honest and good people willing to do their best to make your clients happy.

So, assume your problems, deal with them and give your clients the best experience that you can. Be honest and open with them if something goes wrong, and explain that you assume complete responsibility and will deal with the problem to make them happy.

Remember, at the end, it is always your fault so deal with it.

As usual, please let me know what you think. I love to hear from you. You can reach me at jose@riescoconsulting.com

Also, please visit my web site Restaurant Marketing Strategies check out my Strategies Seminar free for 30 days and/or participate in the forums. They are there for you.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

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The Annoying Yelpers

Caroline McCarthy in an article in CNET mentions how restaurant and cafe owners are angry about their customers (or former customers, I guess) complaining about them in Yelp.

Yelp is a business reviews site with a very vocal user base willing to be brutally honest about the quality of their local restaurants and bars (among many other businesses).
Nowadays, only few people go to restaurants after looking at the ads in the Yellow Pages (for more information about the Yellow Pages as a marketing vehicle for your restaurant, please read my previous blog).

So what do web savvy customers these days? They use Yelp (or other websites like Citysearch.com, Zagat.com or Restaurants.com) and read the comments and reviews in these sites from other people’s experiences before deciding to go to a new restaurant. Negative comments from angry customers have a big (negative) impact in local restaurants.
Yelp.com, being a for profit business as it is, doesn’t want to get the business owners alienated and rioting againts it, so they have just launched a new service so that the business owners can interact with the site’s users.

The service is called “Yelp for Business Owners“. This is a special section in Yelp.com site that lets business owners register for special Yelp accounts, which they then need to verify by phone.

Once registered, restaurant owners and managers (just like you), have access to some analytics (namely to see how many people have been viewing your restaurant page), receive e-mail alerts when you have new reviews, update useful information like your hours of operation, contact information, special menus, etc. You can also send messages to the users who have already reviewed your business.

Yelp won’t charge you for these special accounts.

Caroline mentions that this service will likely have its biggest splash in cities like San Francisco, where Yelper is based and where “Yelper” has become a pejorative among some restaurant and cafe owners.

If you are familiar with my thinking (you can read my previous blogs or the Introduction to my Seminar to get some more information), you know by now how much importance I give to a total client satisfaction strategy.

You shouldn’t need to wait for your clients to leave your place disgrunted and write bad reviews about you or your place in Yelp (or any other online site for that matter).
Your job is to make your clients 100% happy with their experience in your place, even if you have to give them a partial refund (or a complete free meal if the situation so requires, to make them happy).

And believe me when I tell you that, although you are doing this to please your clients, there is something on it as well for you. There are several benefits for you if you follow this policy:

  1. The (now) happy clients won’t write bad things about you in the online forums (no need for you to lose your precious time doing spin control, think how much do you value your time).
  2. They may even write positive comments about how you turned a bad experience into a good one.
  3. These clients would probably go back to your place to try again, therefore giving you again your money back (and perhaps if their next experience is excellent, becoming regular clients).
  4. One negative comment about your place will make you lose tens or even hundreds of potential customers that would’ve (otherwise) decide to give you their patronage. After all, who wants to try a restaurant full of negative comments? Not me for sure.So you see? All of the sudden a full meal refund doesn’t look so bad, does it? Think about it as a small marketing investment that it will pay you many times over instead of a loss.

In these times of free access to information, the customers are in control. There is nothing (or very little) that you can do to mitigate the damage, once the customers leaves your place unhappy. They will tell the whole world about their experience. You can count on it. The only thing that you can do is when they are still in your restaurant.

Offer them a free meal, give them a discount coupon so that they can go back and try again. Do whatever it takes to mitigate their annoyance. Above all, don’t let them walk away unhappy. You will regret it.

Please let me know what you think. I love to hear from you. You can reach me at jose@riescoconsulting.com

Also, please visit my web site Restaurant Marketing Strategies, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, check out my Strategies Seminar free for 30 days and/or participate in the forums. They are there for you.

Thanks for reading and happy sailing,
Jose L Riesco

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Using cash rewards to bring people to your restaurant

Today I stumbled upon a Web site that uses cash rewards to bring people to restaurants.

I won’t name it, but if you look in Google for Restaurant Marketing, they show up in the Sponsored links quite high (under the heading: Restaurant Promotions).

Once you go to their web site, they have this Heading: Drive Huge Traffic To Your Restaurant With A Big Prize Offer!

There are so many wrong things with this marketing approach that I don’t even know where to start…

Ok, perhaps I do, let’s try this:

  1. You will spend lots of money attracting new customers.
  2. These customers will go to your place only because of the Prize Offer.
  3. You will probably fill the restaurant once.
  4. These are bargain seekers, not quality customers (the kind of clients that you want to attract and cultivate).
  5. They won’t come back again (at least that you give them more prices or freebies).
  6. You will make little or not money, even with a full restaurant.
  7. You may alienate your existing clients.
  8. You will attract the cheapest customers ever.

Do you think that this is worth it? I really don’t think so.

Instead, spend your money bringing back your best clients. Give them incentives to come back with their family and friends. (I’ve talked about this in my previous blog, this strategy is also mentioned in detail in my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Seminar). This is the best way to spend your marketing dollars.

Forget about promotions, forget about ads in newspapers and magazines. Instead, spend your time and your money cultivating your existing clients.

If you do this, your return on investment will be always well spent. You will invest your money wisely and you will attract the best clients. If they don’t come, you don’t pay! Now this is being strategic!

For more information and to check what my seminar is all about, please check my web site Restaurant Marketing Strategies.
Happy Sailing,
Jose L Riesco
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Marketing Your Restaurant in the Yellow Pages

Marketing your restaurant in the Yellow Pages

Many restaurant owners spend an incredible amount of money advertising their restaurant in the Yellow Pages.

It always amazes when I see full pages advertising a restaurant in the Yellow book. Let’s face, do you know anybody who decides to go to a restaurant by looking at the ads of the Yellow pages? I surely don’t.

In these days of ubiquitous internet access, people go online checking for restaurants and they trust more the reviews of other people than whatever marketing materials restaurant owners can put out there.

Personally, I think that the mission of the Yellow Pages is for somebody to find the place’s phone number to call and make a reservation. Yellow Pages are great to find a plumber or a service that you really need, but are really bad to look for a place to eat.

Eating in a restaurant is an emotional experience. You go there with expectations of having a great time, of sharing a meal with your family or friends and it’s not a place that people pick because it has a great name or a good ad (or at least they shouldn’t).

But let’s do a quick math to prove my point. Let’s assume that you spend $3,000 a year in Yellow page ads, and that your average ticket per client is $30. Now, from these $30, you get 50% profit. This means that for each client, you spend $15 in cost and get $15 in profit.

So doing easy math: $3,000 spent / $30 per customer = 100 customers, but since you make 50% profit, you need to bring 50 customers just to break even. (You can do this same exercise using your own numbers).

Do you really think that you are bringing 50 customers because of the Yellow Pages ads?

I sincerely doubt it; but there is a simple way to prove it.

Create a special coupon that people can bring when they come to your place and put it in your Yellow Pages ad. Offer a free dessert or some kind of discount. In this way, you can measure the effectivity of the ad.

If you see that you get more than 50 people coming in with the coupon, great; this means that your ad works and you can feel good about spending the money. If not, well… you know what to do.

However, there is another way, a much more efficient way for you to spend these $3,000 and have guaranteed results. Create a special “Great Clients” coupons with a discount, and offer them to your best clients. You could discount 20% of their next meal, for example. This means that your profit per client with these coupons will still be 30% instead of the usual 50% (50% profit – 20% discount =30% profit).

In this way, not only you increase the odds that these great clients come back to your place, but you don’t waste any money.

If they come back, great, you still make a profit and they will probably bring quality people (like themselves) with them. If they don’t come back, you don’t spend any money. This is a win/win situation for you.

Do you see where I am going?

The best way to market and promote your restaurant is always by spending the money in promoting repeated visits from your existing clients, instead of trying to capture new customers all the time.

Not only you will maximize your investment, but every penny that you spend will be measurable and will contribute to the satisfaction of your existing clients.

In my Restaurant Marketing Strategies Seminar, I dedicate a whole module to the important mission of increasing the frequency of visits from your existing clients.

This is one of the three only ways to increase your business, and perhaps the most important of the three (the other two being: increase the number of new clients and increase the purchase amount per client).

As always, don’t forget to check my web site: Restaurant Marketing Strategies, read the blogs and participate in the forums.

Happy Sailing,
Jose L Riesco
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When aren’t customers good for your business?

Alexander Kjerulf

self defined as “Chief Happiness Officer” writes in his blog http://positivesharing.com about cases where customers are more trouble than benefit for the businesses.

He focuses his examples on the airlines industry, where thousands of people fly every day and have a few customers that are more trouble than benefit.

Mr. Kjerulf these top five reasons why business shouldn’t follow the strategy: “The customer is always right”. I will add my take on this applying his reasonings to the Restaurant industry.

1: It makes employees unhappy

Mr. Kjerulf says that business owners should always be in the employee’s side since they want to keep their employees loyal.
Of course, things are a little different in the restaurant business. Disgruntled customers mean no tips for waiters and really bad publicity (via online forums, etc.) for the restaurant.
Although I agree that you need to be loyal to your employees, and that if a customer is not reasonable and threatens any of your employees you should take always the side of your employee, I sincerely think that your employees could/would put up with any difficult customer if their demands are not unreasonable.
Happy customers are good for everybody (more tips and more referrals) and not all your clients will be pleasant and having nice personalities.

2: It gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage

The reasoning here is that abusive people get away with anything and get better treatment than nice people.
Again, I disagree here. Abusive people perhaps can bully their way once or twice; but your employees will always treat better nice clients by having extra attentions with them, engaging in personal conversation, etc., versus serving the minimum needs of nasty customers so that they don’t complain.

3: Some customers are bad for business

He has a point here. Some customers are impossible to please. Perhaps they have some mental disorders (how many people walk the streets with mental problems? Many for sure) or are just grumpy or unhappy with their lives and they share their unhappiness with everybody around them, or more specific with your staff since they probably feel superior and want to let them know who’s in control.
What can you do with these difficult customers? Well, I would suggest you to try to please them, within a reason.
However, if you see that they become aggressive or disruptive, invite them to leave your premises and tell them that you will call the police if they don’t comply.
The limit of tolerance is the point where they start bothering other clients. This is never acceptable. You can’t afford to have a few out-of-control customers spoiling everybody else’s dining experience.

4: It results in worse customer service

Mr. Kjerulf’s point here is that happier employees make happier customers. I don’t doubt this. I just think that disruptive customers are a minority and your employees should be trained to deal with them. Of course, you need to care about your employees and side with them when they are right, but you also need to care about your clients.
At the end of the day, your clients are the ones who give you the money so you need to keep a balance.

5: Some customers are just plain wrong

The example that Mr. Kjerulf gives here is about a passenger that behave like a jerk. Again this kind of behavior fits into the disruptive category that we mentioned before. This passenger, with his behavior, wasn’t only rude to the flight assistants, he was rude to the rest of the passengers and therefore this can’t be tolerated.
To conclude, your customers have the right to ask for a great dining experience in your place and should ask you to make right something that it’s wrong. However, they don’t have the right to be rude to your staff or disruptive to the rest of your clientele. This is the point where you should intervene and ask them to leave your premises, even at the expense of not charging them for the food. It is better to lose a few dollars that to start a confrontation that makes the situation very uncomfortable for you, your employees and the rest of your clients.
Any Comments? Please let me know what you think.
You can participate in the forums in my web site at www.myrestaurantmarketing.com or email me at jose@riescoconsulting.com
http://www.myrestaurantmarketing.com Copyright Riesco Consulting Inc.

Continuous Improvement Process

Japanese companies break down all their major tasks into three basic categories:

  1. Innovation is often the responsibility of the upper management
  2. Maintenance is the responsibility of the workers
  3. “Kaizen” is everybody’s responsibility

Kaizen is the process of continuous enhancement. It is the ongoing, systematic, incremental improvement of how things are done every day. We are talking about the small, almost insignificant changes that, taken one by one, don’t seem like much, but once accumulated over time, they add up to an incredible performance.

You can apply this Japanese wisdom to your restaurant.

As a restaurant owner, it is your responsibility to come up with innovative ways to run your business, to create new marketing ideas and campaigns, to do the best to outsmart your competitors, get to know your clients and offer them a unique and satisfactory experience. Remember that clients go to your place looking for an experience, if you don’t provide them to them, they will go somewhere else!

Your employees are responsible for the maintenance. They run the business on a daily basis and they have to make sure that it is conducted in the best and most professional way. The food needs to be delicious and served on time, the clients need to be treated politely and respectfully, the place needs to be clean and pleasant, etc.

So what about Kaizen? All of you, from the owner to the janitors who clean your place, can contribute to the improvement of your restaurant by caring about it and giving you feedback for improvement.

Listen to your people when they make suggestions to you. Welcome the suggestions. If they make them, it is because they care about your restaurant, because they care about you. An uninterested employee is an apathetic employee.

If everybody contributes to improving your place, small as the improvements may be individually, they will make a big impact when taken together.

From moving the position of a table to give you clients a better view, changing the soap in the bathroom so that it smells nicer; replacing the brand of bread if it is not crispy enough (or your people discover a new provider with a more delicious taste, etc.), every detail, every step that isolated won’t amount to much, it will make a world of difference when added together.

It is very difficult, (I would say impossible) to run a perfect place. Things happen, people are moody and variable.

However, making small changes, continuously improving your operations all the time, will bring you closer to a place where people will notice the difference.

Please send me your feedback at jose@riescoconsulting.com
www.myrestaurantmarketing.com