Data Immediacy Drives Sales & Improves Service

By Mitch Wachman, VP of Operations, Bonfire Restaurant Company | April 11, 2016

In a world where guests are more connected than ever, every interaction can be a make or break situation, with opinions — both good and bad — broadcast almost instantaneously to mass audiences via social media. For restaurants like AXELS (www.axelsrestaurants.com), a tech-savvy demographic of guests have higher expectations than ever before, and a strong desire to be heard by the companies they choose to frequent.

As a result, guest feedback has become a core focus within our business strategy. Today, its purposes are threefold: it serves as one of the most important tools for showing guests we care; helps us improve and better understand the guest experience; and boosts employee morale.
 
Response to guest comments calls for immediacy
Collecting feedback isn’t a new concept, but like many restaurants, we had been relying on outdated methods like survey cards or looking at third-party review sites. Both tactics gave us insight into performance, but we were left hearing about experiences long after they actually occurred.

That lag time was stifling any opportunity for improvement. Guests that had a negative experience were long gone before we knew about it or could make things right and we missed opportunities to recognize employees for providing great service, and lacked visibility into critical cause/effect connections in the business. For example, which team members were on shift and which chefs were in the kitchen when feedback came in about the food or service?

Filling the data gap
Knowing great service was the key to improving and growing our business and that access to real-time data was critical for driving that performance, we turned to Humm (www.hummsystems.com). We determined a short list of key questions, ranging from the quality of food to the knowledge and attentiveness of our servers. These queries were then pre-loaded on Humm feedback tablets and provided at tables in nine of our AXELS and Bonfire brands.

As feedback is collected, restaurant managers receive immediate alerts, allowing them to see real-time views of the business, intervene when issues arise and provide praise for jobs well done. For example, if a guest gives our food or service a low score, a manager has the opportunity to stop by the table to better understand the cause of their negative experience and find a way to make things right.

Areas that once lacked visibility now boast transparency, as we are able to drill down to identify specific elements of the business that contribute to larger volumes of feedback. That granular view of data offers the ability to pinpoint things like who was working during particular shifts and enables us to make training decisions that directly impact the guest experience.

The data is also aggregated, with weekly reports that are shared with the leadership team, helping to track trends over time and uncovering challenges or areas of opportunity. Servers are required to collect a pre-determined number of feedback sessions each week, ensuring we have a detailed, yet comprehensive view of the business.
 
Positive results span guest and employee satisfaction
Collecting on-premise feedback with Humm has played a critical role in helping continuously improve service, deliver an outstanding guest experience and boost team morale. Today, the feedback is used across every facet of the business. Positive comments about team members are shared at the beginning of every meeting and the training process has been improved based on feedback.

The tool helps us evaluate staffing levels and productivity, from adjusting the number of hostesses on shift in order to more efficiently greet guests, to having a better understanding of how managers are performing during peak times. Beyond service, feedback is also used to gauge reaction to menu updates. For example, recently, we brought back a popular pizza when feedback showed that guests preferred the original version over the updated option.

Since implementing the system, we’ve collected more than 6,000 feedback sessions every month and have seen dramatic improvements in both the performance of our team and overall guest and employee satisfaction. Most importantly — and a testament to the bottom line impact of delivering a great experience — we can report a double-digit increase in sales.

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