Article: “Customer service with a snarl” (Aug.2006)

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excerpt:
“Customer service has eroded over the past decade for a variety of reasons — low wages, lack of training, exponential growth, to name a few. Few companies have the blend of corporate culture, training and opportunities for advancement that makes employees surpass expectations…

…In the restaurant business, quality is difficult to gauge because most customers don’t complain — they simply go elsewhere. To amp up its service, Furio began a day-after-dining program to gauge customer satisfaction: The Scottsdale restaurant picks diners at random from the reservation book and contacts them about their experience.

“We look at every single comment,” says Stephanie Eglin, director of marketing for Anthem Restaurants, which owns Furio. “When somebody gives negative feedback, the owner himself makes the call if he’s able to. This type of endeavor is not costly, and we’re able to gain a lot of valuable feedback…”

source: “Customer service with a snarl” by Marija Potkonjak (East Valley Tribune, Aug.14,2006)

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Article: “In good businesses, it’s all about the service” (Jul.2006)

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excerpt:
“…At a Ruby Tuesday restaurant, the wait after being seated was interminable.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, a waiter from another part of the restaurant walked by, noticed the lack of menus, drinks and silverware, and asked if we’d been helped.

He brought us our drinks and told our waiter that we were, in fact, there and waiting for service.

By the time the young waiter for our area showed up, he knew we weren’t happy. Perhaps it was the grim look on our faces, as if we were undergoing surgery, or the terse speech…”

source: “In good businesses, it’s all about the service” by Garrison Wells (The Sun News, Jul.28,2006)

Article: “Suburban dining: First, you wait” (Jul.2006)

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excerpt:
“Family-friendly chain restaurants, particularly the slightly more upscale operations in malls, have redefined what is a tolerable delay, said consultant Ronald Gorodesky, president of Restaurant Advisory Services in Blue Bell.

“We got trained,” Gorodesky said. “Over the last 20 years, and more so the last 10, we have become comfortable with the idea that we often have to wait.”

…Aided by aggressive marketing and kid-friendly menus, chains have become the Goliaths of suburban family dining, Gorodesky said.

At risk of becoming victims of their own success, some national chains are taking measures to mollify diners.

“I think you have to have a wait,” said Ben Novello, president of Outback Steakhouse, which has 782 locations. Patrons like “a busy, happening place.”

source: “Suburban dining: First, you wait” by Adam Fifield (Philadelphia Inquirer, Jul.16,2006)

Article: “T.G.I. Friday’s Provides Servers with a Sixth Sense Through ESP” (Jun. 2006)

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excerpt:
"Servers in T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants are soon to have a sixth sense – the ability to know exactly what a customer needs before the server even arrives at the table. This esp-like ability will provided by non other than ESP Systems.

The company’s patented, wireless Guest Customized Service system will be deployed in each of the 12 T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants owned by Northeast Concepts, a licensed T.G.I. Friday’s franchisee."

source: "T.G.I. Friday's Provides Servers with a Sixth Sense Through ESP" by Susan J. Campbell (TMCnet, Jun.7, 2006)

WaiterBell Angle: Major chain restaurants are beginning to recognize the potential and profits from empowering customers and enhancing restaurant service. This is not only a unique differentiation from other independent restaurants and smaller chains that give major chain restaurants another competitive edge, but it shows the restaurant's commitment to the customer.

Article: “Consumer Reports’ Survey of Chain Restaurants Finds Best Value in Seven Casual Dinner Houses” (Jun. 2006)

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excerpt:
"Consumer Reports' latest survey of restaurant chains shows that readers were especially happy with meals at some of the newer chains-and that casual restaurants usually offered the best bang for the buck.

Readers told Consumer Reports that they found the especially good value-$15 to $19 for a very good meal-at seven casual-dinner chains: Claim Jumper, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Johnny Carino's Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy, Texas Roadhouse, Red Hot & Blue, and Famous Dave's.

Conducted by Consumer Reports' National Research Center, the survey results are based on information from 66,000 readers about 149,000 meals and 103 full-service restaurant chains between April 2004 and April 2005…"

source: "Consumer Reports' Survey of Chain Restaurants Finds Best Value in Seven Casual Dinner Houses" (Consumer Reports, Jun. 5,2006) [Press Release]

Article: “Ready to be self-served?” (June 2006)

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excerpt:
"The country is not quite ready for self-serve," said Devin Green, chief executive of ESP Systems LLC, which is deploying a system for alerting a restaurant's staff that a patron needs service. "This is a people business. People go to a restaurant to be served."

Dick Rivera, president and chief executive of Rubicon Enterprises and former chief operating officer of Darden Restaurants, said there may be other ways "to put the customer in control that don't detract from service." Darden Restaurants owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden and other chains.

Like many of the new technologies that are quickly evolving today, ESP Systems uses a wireless system. A paging device at the table gives the customer the ability to summon the server when they are ready to order, need assistance or want the check."

source: "Ready to be self-served?" by John Schmeltzer (Chicago Tribune, Jun.1,2006)

WaiterBell Angle: While WaiterBell and ESP Systems work from the same concept, each accomplishes the goal differently. We did a quick comparison between the two systems a little while ago (click here).

Article: “BD’s chain solicits guest feedback with electronic comment cards” (May 2006)

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excerpt:
"Wright added that although it was difficult to measure the direct impact of the electronic surveys, the real-time access to detailed server and restaurant performance information provided by the system is paving the way for enhanced service.

"Servers, grill staff and managers know they are accountable for their performance, and they act on that," he said. "Just as significantly, we can praise employees as well as coach them on a more individual level to address certain issues. For example, if we see from a report that a server isn't consistently offering dessert before dropping the check or that grill staff aren't interacting with customers, we can ask why and try to change these behaviors."

Sources at BD's said the chain was benefiting from a programmable "alert" feature in The Informant system. That capability means that managers are notified immediately whenever a guest indicates in the electronic survey that he or she does not plan to patronize the operation again or has never dined there before. Notification is made through a wireless radio paging system.

"The alert affords managers a chance to go to first-timers' tables to establish real rapport with them and give them an extra nudge to come back," Wright said. "And when there's a problem, we can address it right there, hopefully salvaging the customer and the relationship"

source: "BD's chain solicits guest feedback with electronic comment cards" by Julie Ritzer Ross (Nation's Restaurant News, May 9,2006) (via Findarticles.com)

WaiterBell Angle: The electionic comment cards provide the restaurant information and opportunities to address issues in service quality, as well as strengthen customer relationships. While the Informant works after the meal, the WaiterBell system allows the restaurant to address service quality during the dining experience as it is happening.