Article: “Senior moment: Chains forget older customers” (Jul. 2002)

excerpt:

"Representing an untapped gold mine for restaurant and hotel businesses, those nearly 50 million middle-aged consumers and workers currently make up about a fifth of the nation's population and represent more than half of its discretionary purchasing power."

"Foodservice operators received "very poor" customer service grades from older guests in the university-sponsored USA Today study.

"A majority of the mature respondents consider themselves occasionally mistreated in restaurants," the researchers explained in the report. "For example, some of them felt rushed to finish eating so others could have the table. They also felt restaurant employees did not care about them." 

"Ironically, casual-dining chains, the growth horse of the restaurant industry, received the poorest marks for customer service to older guests. Inattentive servers, lack of product knowledge to address specific questions and slow service were common complaints among older restaurantgoers who eat in casual-dining establishments. Fastfood and fine-dining operations tended to generate more "satisfied" comments than casual dining, the report said."

link: "Senior moment: Chains forget older customers; study: mature workers fare no better – Statistical Data Included" by Milford Prewitt (Nation Restaurant News, Jul. 8, 2002)

WaiterBell Angle: The WaiterBell system would help restaurants address service issues highlighted in this article. The system helps empower all customers to help enhance their dining experience and prevent service gaps from developing.

Article: “It’s all about service” (Mar.2006)

excerpt:

"In other words, much of the responsibility for getting good customer service lies – that's right – with you, and not the seller, said Jack Burke, author of "Get What You Want: An Industry Insider Shows You How to Make Good Complaints, Fix Bad Service and Convince Companies that You're Right."

"We as consumers have delegated the responsibility of our satisfaction to the company. We expect them to make us happy without us putting forth any effort, and it doesn't work that way," he said.

Trouble is, clerks, customer service reps and other salespeople can't read your mind. They don't have a crystal ball. You must communicate your needs, the problem you are trying to resolve, or what you want to accomplish. Only then can you get a helping hand."

link: "It's all about service" by Jean Chatzky (Daily News, Mar.30, 2006)

WaiterBell Angle: This article mainly focuses on customer responsibility in the retail sector, however I believe many of its points also apply to restaurant customer service. If a customer needs another utensil, how does the server know unless the customer tells them? There is some responsibility on the customer to communicate their need for service in a restaurant.

Without WaiterBell, the customer would have to wait to catch a server's attention or continue to gesture get noticed. Should that be the responsibility of the customer? We believe no, the customer's responsibility is to only signal for assistance. The restaurant's responsibility is to be there when the signal is made. If a server is not around, does a customer need service?

The WaiterBell system empowers customers to help the waitstaff prevent service gaps and communicate more effectively.

Opinion: “Get real, Operators: Consistently good service just a myth” (Feb.2006)

excerpt:

"Let's get real. While we all know that service is relative, there is no such thing as good, consistent service. It does not exist. I know that there are those who immediately will dismiss my comment or become indignant because I have never seen their operation, but I stand by the statement unequivocally…

Food, while it isn't easy, is easier to control than service….We do taste tests, product checks, line checks, temperature checks, and who knows what else. Food can be controlled.

Service cannot. No screen process, hiring process, personality evaluation, reference, or training program can adequately keep on top of every front-of-the-house person as is necessary.

The past 10 years have seen a staggering decline in the quality of employee in the workplace and turnaround isn't happening anytime soon. The challenge is to recognize the problem and do our best to counteract it. What we have done so far isn't working."

link: "Get real, operators: Consistently good service just a myth" by Joe Nuckolls (Nation's Restaurant News Magazine, Feb. 13, 2006) (fee-required)

WaiterBell Angle: The WaiterBell system helps address this restaurant issue. In combination with waitstaff training, good management, and active solicitation of customer feedback, the WaiterBell system helps ensure more consistent good service by empowering the customers to discreetly assist in preventing potential service gaps.

Here is an example without WaiterBell:

1. Customer realizes that they now wish to have some tabasco sauce for their meal. [At this point, there is a customer need, and the clock begins ticking. Potential service gap.]

2. Customer looks around for help. Sees multiple servers, but not their own, or are unable to make eye contact with their server. [The clock continues ticking, the customer begins to feel frustrated. Service gap has occurred. The consequences of the service gap will be determined by the amount of time to receive service and the customer. Note: The manager and server may never be aware of the consequences or that a service gap has occurred]

Here is an example with WaiterBell:

1. Customer realizes that they now wish to have some tabasco sauce for their meal. [At this point, there is a customer need, and the clock begins ticking. Potential service gap.]

2. Customer presses WaiterBell. Someone from the waitstaff (either their server or a supporting team member) sees the table number on the WaiterBell display and attends to the customer's need. [Potential service gap prevented.]

Research: “Restaurant Tipping and Service Quality: A Tenuous Relationship” (Feb.2001)

summary:

The connection between service quality and tip sizes is tenuous at best, as shown by an analysis of 14 studies that examined the relationship between service and tips. This meta-analysis of the studies sought to statistically combine 24 correlations between tipping and service. While the studies taken together found that, indeed, tips increased with the perceived quality of service, the relationship was weak enough to raise doubts about the use of tips to motivate servers, measure server performance, or identify dissatisfied customers.

excerpt:

“This suggests that while tips are a reward for service, they are not a good way to motivate servers, measure server performance, or identify dissatisfied customers. Restaurant managers need to find and use other means of accomplishing those tasks”

link: “Restaurant Tipping and Service Quality: A Tenuous Relationship” by Michael Lynn (Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Feb.2001) [free registration required]

WaiterBell Angle: This study highlights some of the difficulties for restaurants in getting accurate customer feedback on their waitstaff and the quality of table service. If restaurants are depending on their customers for evaluating server performance, this study shows that taking a reactive stance may be unproductive. The WaiterBell system is a proactive way for restaurant owners to improve customer satisfaction in their restaurants.

Article: “Good restaurant service gets back to basics” (Mar.2006)

excerpt:

"Because of the nature of our restaurant—fun rather than fine dining—we hired on attitude and personality, sometimes poaching top staff from other restaurants. We taught our new servers how to serve, how to sell, and how to keep busy. A good waiter is always in motion, checking place settings, polishing glasses, circulating, eyes always on their tables. Customers notice. Tips follow. Everyone makes out. When servers are in the weeds and diners are waiting, a quick word, a smile, and eye contact make a world of difference."

I spoke to several restaurateurs who agreed across the board that personality and attitude are what matters. If servers can bring those to the table, that’s 90 percent of the game."

link: "Good restaurant service gets back to basics" by Judith Lane (The Georgia Straight, Mar.23, 2006)

WaiterBell Angle: There are several articles that believe the first thing to look for in hiring waitstaff are those with the right attitude and personality. From there, proper waiter training can handle the rest. However, even the best may have an off day or make a human mistake, and unfortunately it could cost a restaurant a customer, negative word of mouth, or a bad review. The WaiterBell system is meant to provide the service safety net to catch any mistakes before they can become costly. Restaurants invest time and money for recruiting and training their waitstaff, the WaiterBell system is an investment in supporting their waitstaff.

Research: The Impact of Restaurant Table Characteristics on Meal Duration and Spending (Nov.2004)

excerpt:

“As might be predicted from the literature, tables that offered more potential for privacy regulation generally resulted in a higher average check and a longer than average duration. Tables that were more exposed, such as those along interior windows facing the patio, had a lower average check and a shorter average duration…This finding is in keeping with the demonstrated relationship between a pleasant shopping environment and higher spending.”

“While not all table characteristics appeared to affect customers’ behavior in this study, we found that booths generated the highest SPM (Spending Per Minute) of all table types, banquette seating generated the lowest SPM, and what most people might term a bad table still generated a reasonable rate of SPM during busy times. These findings are based solely on a single restaurant, but they suggest that there may be interesting relationships between a restaurant’s environment and its customers’ behavior that merit more investigation as well as consideration by restaurant planners and managers as they create new and more effective amenities.”

link: “The Impact of Restaurant Table Characteristics on Meal Duration and Spending” by Sheryl E. Kimes and Stepani K. A. Robson (Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Nov.2004) [free registration required]

WaiterBell Angle: Based on the research above, it is understandable for restaurant designers to want to include some tables with a degree of privacy with regards to customer preferences and restaurant profitability. However the question that arises is how to provide efficient attentive service to booths or semi-private tables.

The WaiterBell system would allow a restaurant to provide semi-private dining and efficient, attentive service.  This would also accomplish two additional restaurant goals: a relaxed, enjoyable dining experience and repeat customer business.

Article: “Exclusive look at hidden tables” (Jun. 2005)

excerpt:

“Cocoon dining,” with secluded booths often cordoned off by gauzy fabric or a curtain, is being offered at fine and mid-level restaurants in Chicago and nationwide, including Casa La Femme North in New York, J Six in the Hotel Solamar in San Diego and Restaurant RM in Las Vegas.

“… most of the diners who request the “snugs” at McCormick & Schmick’s on the Gold Coast are business people. “They like the quiet feeling of the room,” says General Manager Keith Jones Sr. McCormick & Schmick’s has incorporated nine snugs into every one of its 54 restaurants nationwide”

link: “Exclusive look at hidden tables” by Shia Kapos (Crain’s Chicago Business, Jun. 6, 2005)

WaiterBell Angle: The WaiterBell system is a perfect complement to secluded booths and semi-private dining. Diners receive the privacy they want, and can discreetly signal for assistance using WaiterBell when they need it.