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Tis the season: Use holiday staff to build customer loyalty

If there ever was a time of year to invest in wowing guests, the holidays are that time. Future loyal customers are out shopping and many are visiting you for the first time. Put your best foot forward.

Now is not the time to be stingy with labor; now is the time to add another cashier at lunch; now is the time to ensure your staff is ready to execute your ServPoints – your unique brand and guest experience attributes. Wow these infrequent visitors and become top-of-mind in 2011 when they are ready to venture out.

Spending more money than planned on labor this holiday season will serve you and your guests well. Think of it as marketing if that helps. Add another busser, cashier or server at lunch. The point is, don’t be short-sighted and run tight labor when you could be investing in customer visits and loyalty.

When I walk into an establishment and it takes even a minute for someone to acknowledge me, it seems like an eternity. In comparison, when I walk in and there is someone waiting for me with a smile and greeting, I am reassured that I chose the right place. I feel like this restaurant wants me there and appreciates my business.

While the following tips aren’t new, when developing your holiday labor strategy they are good reminders for both you and your staff.

  1. Focus on the guest connection with every person who enters your restaurant. Use their name if possible; it makes all the difference in moving from a good experience to a great experience. “Implement a strategy at the door to recognize first-time guests. Have counter and host staff, servers and managers take a minute to welcome and make these guests feel special. This one management approach can create a Guest for Life,” said restaurant consultant William Bender. Make no mistake, to increase sales and drive customer loyalty your goal has to be amazing experiences, not good experiences.  
  2. Execute on brand promises. First, what are your brand promises? Get clear on them. If you tout fresh bread, make sure every table gets it and tell them how fresh it is, if you say you have the best hand-crafted coffee drinks, make sure each one is the best before it gets to the guest – and its hot! Educate your team on what differentiates you from the competition and how they can discuss that with your guests.
  3. Build guest loyalty. A simple way to do this is by inviting guests to return. Train staff to say goodbye and thank guests for coming in. It’s disheartening to spend an hour and hard earned money to then walk by five team members without any acknowledgment as you leave. Engaged employees engaging guests
  4. Communicate holiday goals to your team. If you have a gift card promotion where your guest can purchase $100 worth of cards and get $25 for themselves, make sure your team knows about it. Guests are out shopping; they need stocking stuffers. Track sales by server. Run contests, reward staff with gift cards, after all your team needs to give gifts too. Your team will be doing guests a great service by selling them a gift card and crossing another item off their Christmas list.
  5. Focus on junior managers and temp staff this holiday season. Often overlooked, it’s critical to guest satisfaction. A GM can’t be there all the time. Make sure you communicate your expectations to junior manager so they can run solid shifts while are away from the store. It’s a great time to let them shine. Temporary staff should be educated and immersed in the uniqueness of your brand. Sell temp employees on your concept before letting them loose on your guests.    

Don’t be a Scrooge this holida y season. Invest in amazing these infrequent guests and make lasting guest connections. The extra money spent on labor now will come back to you like an overflowing Christmas stocking in 2011.

Tis the season: Use holiday staff to build customer loyalty

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