wreath and ampersand

One thing I like about the holiday season is the natural opportunity it provides for reflection and self-evaluation.  I use the time to look back over the books I’ve read and the goals that I set for the year. Since I’m inclined to this kind of analysis, I find it enlightening, sometime discouraging, but mostly invigorating as I look toward the future and make sure I’m doing what I can to ensure that it’s better than the past.

We recently completed an online survey with over 300 people responding with extremely helpful feedback about our business.  People can be more honest when provided with the cloak of anonymity and the answers given through this evaluation point to areas we need to address to ensure that 2015 is our best year ever in business.  Here’s what we are learning:

All feedback is good feedback

There is a current meme afloat of establishment owners reacting to Yelp reviewers by posting dramatic readings of the negative criticism.  While it can be humorous and cathartic, for me it may prevent the opportunity to see a teachable moment.  No one is perfect.  No owner bats a 1.000.  As painful as it may be to read in detail about a guest’s dissatisfaction, as leader I am ultimately responsible.  Without first listening to the critique with an open mind, it may show that I have a blind spot of which I am completely unaware.

In a perfect world, when a guest is unhappy about something, it would be noted at that moment so that the problem gets solved right away.  But even I, when dining out, find it difficult to express to a server or manager when something isn’t right.  Bottom line, however, if I’ve dropped the ball as a chef, I want to know.  If your food is cold or too salty or bland, I want to hear about it.  Problem solving starts with knowing the problem. Solutions don’t exist without knowledge of the failure.

I was pleased to see the majority of respondents to our survey were in the Very Positive category. These comments are the easiest to read but should not be the first ones I look at.  I want to hear from the folks with the Negative impression.  These are where the lessons are.

Performance vs Preference

Everyone’s tastes are different.  This is why we don’t set out to boast in having the “best in town.”  Your best burger is not her best burger because “best” is subjective.  Here it’s important to be able to discern between a performance issue and personal preference.  If your burger is cold, that’s poor performance.  If you like it with Miracle Whip, that’s preference.  The former we can attend to, the latter we won’t. We are pretty proud of our burger but we will let you decide if you think it’s the best or not.

Annoyed or Just an Asshole

There are some people in life that are just plain angry and will take any opportunity to vent it in any direction, regardless of who stands in the way. It doesn’t take much honest discernment to tell the difference between someone with a legitimate complaint and a raging guest that just feels the need to pick a fight. The important lesson of hospitality is to always take the high road.  Never repay anger with anger.  Always repay it with kindness and don’t take on their demeanor.

What we are learning