Sometimes we have to take a lesson from what is not working. This is one of those times. On Sunday Chris and I went to brunch with 4 friends to a restaurant we know well. We have eaten there at least 4 times and within their family of restaurants at least 12 times. It’s worth noting that this restaurant family is local to South Beach and has 5 spots within a 3 block radius It’s very much a local, neighborhood place.
We arrive a couple minutes early as none of the rest of the group knew each other. This is the dialogue that followed between me and the host:
Me: Hi! Reservation for 6 for Colleen Francis
Host: Hello Ms Francis – welcome back is your entire party here (note he was savvy enough to know we were repeat customers)
Me: Thanks not yet
Host: Oh we can’t set you until everyone arrives. When will they be here?
Me: I suspect within 5 minutes. Is that our table over there? (pointing to the only table set for 6 in the restaurant)
Me: Then can we sit?
Host: No you will have to stand over there – pointing to the sidewalk – until your guests arrive because it’s not fair to our other guests.
So Chris and I stand in the sun on the sidewalk and wait. One of our party arrives – she has just suffered from a lymphoma and can’t stand for long or she passes out. We explain this to the host and they instead get us a chair so she can sit on the sidewalk. Our table waits…empty. I approach again:
Me: Are you still holding the table for us? We have another guest who has arrived and this is very uncomfortable
Host: Yes we will not be giving that table away to anyone else. You can sit down when all your guests arrive
Me: That makes no sense. Why can’t we sit now, order a drink and wait.
Host: When will your party arrive?
Me: It’s 12:03 this is Miami, two are coming from the islands with traffic it could be in 30 seconds or3 minutes. I’m not sure why we can’t sit at the table you have reserved for us
Host: Because it’s unfair to the rest of our guests.
Me: I don’t understand. It’s a buffet so there is no rush to avoid, the table is being held for us and we are force to stand here on the sidewalk in the blazing sun
Host: Sorry that’s our policy on Easter Sunday. (ed note: “how Christian of you at Easter…”)
12:05 Two more of our party arrive. The host relents and allows us to sit. I think it’s only because we are blocking the entire front entrance to the restaurant. UGH. We will not go back. We would not have stayed if it had not been for the large group coming in from various parts of Miami to join us. Sure the food was great, the buffet flawless and the waiters friendly but the “policy” that forced us to stand on the sidewalk and wait even when our table was set ready and reserved was abhorrent. Not only did they lose us as a client but 3 of the other locals at our table and our collective referrals.
I know why they implemented the policy. Likely in the past they have had big parties reserve big tables and not have everyone show up. They are worried about losing immediate revenue. What they lost was much worse. Recurring revenue from a local crowd that eats out a lot! Here are the mistakes and we can learn as sales professionals
1) Don’t create policies that penalize your existing clients. Reward your current clients, they are the most profitable clients you have.
2) Don’t blame others for your policy enforcement. IE “it wouldn’t be fair to other clients” is a weak excuse that will only aggravate clients
3) Ask yourself – “is what I am doing right now to this client enhancing rapport or eroding rapport. If you are eroding rapport you are losing a sale.
Dedicated to increasing your sales