Category Archives: Helpful Hints

Everything’s Right

Foodie Friday again, thank goodness. My friend Barry is a restaurateur. He runs a place in Georgia and their tagline is “Everything’s So Right.” There is a lot of wisdom packed into those few words (very much like Barry!) and I got a chance to see that sort of thinking first-hand this week.

I went out with a friend for a beverage. We hit one of our usual haunts and she ordered something that she’s had there before. Unfortunately, what arrived at the table wasn’t even a close approximation of what she was expecting.

We said something to our server (our usual seats at the bar wouldn’t permit social distancing so we took a table) who mentioned that the drink was made by someone our friend, the head bartender, was training. She also immediately apologized and asked what else she could bring instead. Her attitude was one of sincere regret as if she had personally disappointed instead of just delivering a badly-made beverage. She wanted to make everything right.

Making everything right is long-term thinking. The problem in this case wasn’t a bad drink. What would have become the problem would have been the server not taking immediate steps to fix the problem with a customer-friendly attitude. In business, we don’t get in trouble for the things we do. More often than not, it’s for the thing we don’t do. That might be why we visit this place at least once a week.

There’s another restaurant in town that offers the best Chinese food in the area. It’s authentic and as good as I’ve had in NYC’s Chinatown. I rarely go there because the service is unapologetically atrocious. You can wait for an hour for your food to arrive even when the place is nearly empty. It certainly doesn’t take as long to cook as it does to arrive. Does anyone seem to care about making everything right? Nope.

Screw-ups are a fact of life no matter what business you’re in. 99.9% satisfaction means that 1 person in 1,000 is going to have an issue. If you go to sleep thinking that one person is far outweighed but the 999, you’re not going to sleep very well for long. Making everything right has to be the gaol in a time when everyone has access to social platforms and review sites. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. When people spend their hard-earned cash on your product or service, they expect you to solve whatever problem – hunger and thirst in this case-, brought them to you with a smile. If everything’s not right, you haven’t, have you?

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We Went Back To Our Bar

Foodie Friday, finally. If you regularly read this screed on Fridays, you might have picked up that Friday afternoons almost always involved a trip to my favorite local watering hole. In fact, I devoted one Friday rant to the place.

During the pandemic, while we’ve ordered food on a regular basis from the place to support it as best we could through the crisis, last evening was the first time in six months that we actually went to have a beverage. While bars are still closed here in North Carolina, restaurants are open with limited capacity indoors as well as distanced seating outdoors. Our plan was to sit outside and since it was a nice evening we ended up staying for dinner as well since technically our bar qualifies as a restaurant based on how much food it sells.

Of course, we did stick our masked faces inside to check out what was going on and to say hi to some staff members we hadn’t seen in a while. What a difference. The bar area was shut down – it’s usually packed – and several tables had been removed to limit capacity. Many more picnic tables had been added outdoors to make up for the lost seating. But it did get me thinking.

Many changes have already happened in the restaurant business. The biggest one, obviously, is that a significant percentage of them have closed their doors forever. It’s a marginally profitable business in good times and these days are NOT good times. For those that remain, adjusting to limited seating and a lot more take-out has also changed how the restaurant is staffed and operated. The quality that people have come to expect has morphed into wanting that quality at home. Cafeterias have died and drive-through fast food has been reborn to a certain extent. Without the need for a lot of service staff, operating within ghost kitchens has become prevalent. In fact, one franchise – Dickey’s Pit Barbecue – launching a network of ghost kitchens, including virtual restaurants to expand their reach in Chicago, Houston and Orlando, and entering into a new market using only ghost kitchens in Providence, R.I.

None of the changes have been easy, and the disruption points to something that’s applicable to your business as well. That’s leadership. In a crisis, leadership is even more important than in normal times because your team tends to panic and freeze or do silly things. The businesses who have really won in this environment so far are the ones that have a plan, have a good, strong corporate culture, have injected a little bit of entrepreneurialism in it, and stress execution. It starts at the top.

Does that sound like something you’re doing? Shouldn’t it be?

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Don’t Believe Me

You can’t help but be aware that not everything you read on the internet or via social media is true. Shocking, I know. We are living in a time when there are people and organizations actively putting our false information. The cynics among you will say that marketers have been doing that for years and there is some truth in that. But this is different.

I think when we read product ads or other materials labeled as advertising or advertorial or paid sponsorship, a little “be wary” alarm goes off. I recognize, having been fooled myself on more than one occasion, that not all of those paid for materials are immediately obvious as ads, but most are. If you look closely enough, even the social media usual suspects make it fairly clear when content is actually advertising. Not so propaganda.

You might be familiar with the studies showing that a huge percentage of people don’t actually read the things they like or repost. There are problems with that, the biggest of which is that you’ve added social proof to something that might actually be a complete lie. I had a friend the other day who posted a story that had a headline that was different from what the article actually said (thanks, editor who wrote the headline). I asked her in a comment if she had actually read the article, which was taken down shortly thereafter since it didn’t exactly match her world view.

It’s going to get worse over the next 60 days as we get to an election. Just as in 2016, there are disinformation campaigns being waged. I don’t mean the obvious ones you see on TV which are paid for by special interest groups. The stories have been coming for months and today’s headline that “Russians Again Targeting Americans With Disinformation, Facebook and Twitter Say” is not going to stop anyone because these bad actors got caught.

What can you do? Check everything you read against multiple sources. Be skeptical. Don’t believe me or anyone else until you find proof of what you’re reading with your own eyes. Don’t even believe your eyes when it’s video since it’s way to easy to fake videos these days. Go to legitimate fact-checkers – Snopes, PolitiFact, and others.

I’m not being political here (we don’t do that in this space). I’m begging you to make up your own mind based on as much accurate information as you can find. Don’t repost stuff you haven’t read and checked out. Don’t believe what others post until you do. Not even from me, OK?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks