The Making of a Great Retail Store or Restaurant: Minimum Activities for Front of House Staff (Case Study: Retail Store or Restaurant #4)


I have spent more than a couple of months back in retail sales and this case study reflects some of what I have learned or remembered. This segment offers valuable information beyond what the previous sections did. The concentration in the previous parts was on the business itself and how its basic design makes a solid foundation for good and bad times. A few other things were discussed that have their own intrinsic significance. This segment includes a few things I feel compelled to share. My previous background in management of both retail and restaurant management gives me the essential perspective of a manager in dealing with many problems.

What I would like to share here is that if each staff member would arrive to work in the best possible shape and perform the best possible, the business would do so much better in the long run. If it was possible to somehow make a list of what entails more than acceptable performance for the staff on a daily basis and more important in each and every customer situation, that list would have significant value because the manager or the owner could use that as a solid frame of reference for job design, management and performance measurement. Retail and restaurants are very similar in that both are games of numbers. We count how many customers arrive, how much they spend, what they eat and drink and so on. We map these numbers against the staff, the expenditure and so on. Everything is based on a set of basic numbers. Some smaller numbers work as a ratio of the initial numbers. We know of the total guests, how many will buy an expensive bottle of wine or an expensive product. We know the percentage who will order no drink versus the opposites. These ratios are known to the managers and owners and hover within a specific range. The ownership knows how well or poorly the establishment is doing based on the averages and the actual for a specific date and so on. The point is if it is possible to design a system for controlling the staff performance that will maintain good averages within this ratio system, we would be able to make the most of each day and be ahead in good times but not fall behind in bad times.

The list I have developed will work very well for staff who have contact with guests (and behind the front-line in many cases). The fundamental list cannot be changed but how to design and measure each line item will vary based on the establishment. The most important point to consider is the list is not a set of guideline to follow or not. The list items are not selectively more or less important. They are all equally important and the key principle at work is the list was made so each staff member be able to follow a very good and solid set of rules FOR EACH AND EVERY CUSTOMER CONTACT. What is the value of this rigid formula? It is quite easy for the staff member to learn and follow such list. The outcome is the establishment makes the most of every and each individual customer contact, situation and opportunity. In short, we make the most of the presence of the customer that day and do everything possible to have the opportunity of having that customer back in the future and make the most of that opportunity also. We lose the least customers. We find the most number of new customers. And the quality of each sales transaction is extremely good. I consider this an excellent formula for a healthy food or retail establishment to operate and do well rather than doing well in good times and who knows what in other seasons.

The list is presented here without too much polishing up because each establishment has its own way of doing business and needs to adapt the list to their own business. What is important is to remember these items are not guidelines. I hate to call them rules because people have their own way of thinking what a rule is. Whatever they are they are no changeable. They are made for each business to lay a solid foundation of good business and are not flexible at the discretion of the staff or the time or the day. This is a boring but easy to follow list that has to be applied everyday by people who work on the floor and at each customer situation. It basically tells you what to do everytime to have a good and healthy business to run. It does not replace training or other aspects of operation. It is not flexible and half a list applied does not make a list. Any item dropped will make the list null and void. Almost every retail and food establishment follows this list but only part of it. That is what keeps a place from becoming first class in operations versus sometimes good and the rest unknown. Do not make your own list. You already have one and is not that good.

1. Clocking in and out. Employees have schedules that fit the floor activity (hopefully). Make sure they are followed and nobody makes own schedule.

2. Dress code. Each establishment has some way of visualizing proper dress code for the staff. Make sure the dress code is followed and not supplemented by staff. If no dress code, then that is your dress code.

3. Floor presence. Floor staff must be present on the floor at all times. This means specific areas of the floor are where they must be at and specific areas must be visited rarely or never. The opposite hurts the business. They must be on the floor and in the assigned areas always.

4. Fixing up and preparing. If no other activity, the staff must work on fixing up and preparing for when activity will take place.

(Everything is what most businesses are used to. The key is to make sure every item is done properly. The following actually refer to contacts with guests or customers).

5. Greet everyone. The staff must take personal responsibility to greet everyone entering. That can be to ward off thieves in retail or to be welcoming in restaurant business.

(Tell them to follow the stupid rule. Just say hello to each and every person. That may be 100 times each day and 500 times each week and 26000 each year. The point is 22000 times each year is not the same as 26000. We want to make the most of each opportunity not a portion of them. We already make the most of some opportunities and that won’t do. The minimum requirements for proper performance and running a healthy business is to do what genuinely works. 26000 a year is 26000 a year. Sales is a game of numbers in food or retail. We do much better starting with 26000 as the actual base number than 22000.)

6. Answer the phone. Whatever the principle for the location is must be followed. If it is 3 rings to answer, then that is it all the time.

7. Approach to help. Staff must approach the guests, and customers to help them. If they are available to help and not doing it, then why are they at work. Offer to help each client.

When offered to help two things can help: The guests knows what they are looking for or are just browsing.

8. If not looking for anything specific, let them browse and if have time offer things as suggestions to the browsers.

9. If browsing, offer them whatever printed sales materials or show them what is on sale that attracts your typical customers.

Browsers are part of the business and if not buying today, they will return if they have a good experience. Help them browse. Help them find things that are good to find that day. Help them find things (printed materials) that will bring them back later. Don’t let them leave thinking a few minutes of browsing was all the business was worth. The same applies to restaurants. Help them get to know your place in a few minutes. Offer them to come back when something interesting or exciting will take place i.e. happy hour, events, etc. You need them to return again or business will hurt. A percentage of visitors will return and we need to do our best with each visitor to have the maximum returns.

10. If looking for a specific thing, help them. The same holds true in a restaurant. If you know what they are after, you must help them all the way. Don’t leave customers on their own to get what they want. The customer must get what they want today so they will come back again and you MUST help them.

11. Once the guest make the purchase decision or place order, that is the ONLY time to offer additional things that make sense with that purchase. Do it each time with the customer.

When you help the guest, as soon the decision is made, you must offer them whatever else you can that goes with the decision to include in that transaction. If buying something in retail, as soon as they pick what they want, you must offer them whatever else that can go with the product so they can modify the decision and include it or them. Later will be too later because it will be much harder to change their decision for them. The same is true with taking orders in a restaurant or bar. When you know what they are ordering, you must offer them what you can that goes with the decision to include in the transaction. Restaurants can offer many things to go with the food, or drink purchase and some will sell right then. What sales later will be a new decision and many things will not.

12. Don’t suggest anything else until the original purchase is out of the way. Once food order and drinks are on the way, the time for selling desserts and cheese plates will be arriving. Once the retail purchases are being rung up with whatever go attached to the sale, that is a good time to suggest more things.

Do not confuse the customer. Offer them to help and when the decision is made, offer them what can go with that decision. Once everything is being rung up or has been ordered offer other things that may sell today or later. Don’t confuse at the same time.

13. Marketing for today and tomorrow is very important. The guest must be offered, directed and suggested what is available for sale today. Printed sales materials work and so do email lists. The next time we come in contact with the guest is as important or more important as the one today. Do all the marketing possible after the buying decisions are made.

(Never assume anything. Staff who assume things need to go. Staff who do not assume things will do everything possible to make a solid and healthy business. Each step of the list must be followed as if the staff has no possible way of knowing what the answer is. An experienced person can expect some answers but nobody should assume. Each step should be followed even if they all fail each time and every time. The job is to go through these steps with each person visiting. The successes can be counted later on on a daily basis or longer time periods. The staff does not get to DEFINE SUCCESS. Their job is to follow the actual line items and do them without GUESSING OR ASSUMING the outcome. If done 100 times daily and fails a 100 times daily, that is what the job is. In reality, the outcomes work and the sales statements show the actual percentages of SUCCESSES. These successes only take place if the base action is taken. Staff has no say in what the base action is or deciding what will happen in advance. They must do each item and whatever the outcome, that is life. A skilled person will do much better obviously in having more successful outcomes.)

14. Indirect marketing can help. If making purchases or getting food to go, the establishment bag is an advertisement. Coupons are abundant in some lines of business and a stigma in others but can work to bring a guest back again. We need them to return. Use whatever is available and works in your line of business.

A summary of the list would be:

1. greet each guest

2. offer help to each guest

3. if only browsing or checking the place out, offer whatever helps find things and get to know the place. give printed stuff, and put on email list so they come back. you need them to return.

4. if visiting for something known, help them find and get.

5. when buying, suggest and ask for whatever can go with the purchase or order

6. look for the next sale directly or indirectly. give printed materials or coupons if exists. tell about upcoming events and programs. put on email list if exists. bags are good.

The bottom line is the list is applied differently for each establishment and every location is already using some variation of the list. The change that will bring the consistent results and makes the place a healthy business is the staff must follow this list item by item and not just some part of it. They will become skilled over time but should never assume thinking they know the answers. The list must be followed with each guest as the absolute minimum for running a healthy business and not the minimum. This is the lowest performance level to run a good and healthy business. What is included in the list works for today, tomorrow and later. Other homemade lists of what staff are supposed to do miss things here and there and the result is lack of consistency. This list is made to fit everyone. The smart staff and the not smart staff. The lazy staff and not lazy staff. The awake staff and the sleep-walking staff. The staff function as robots after a period of time and if they are doing things by habit, this list is the minimum number of good habits. Anything less will ruin the business if not today but definitely will and someday it will show and will be too late.


*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.


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