Fast Food Races to Mediocrity, Blind to Guest Experience.
By John Hendrie
Monday, 4th August 2014
Take care of your people, and they will take care of your customers, Mr J Willard Marriott knew that and what you read in the press about Marriott usually reflects their prominance in the lodging market;

Fast food enterprises still do not get it, although a few do understand the relationship between the employee relationship and delivering the brand promise. 

Just think – I will pay you minimum wage for you to move product and please our guests.  And, being particularly generous, I shall give you short shifts, so you can work other jobs to meet your own personal obligations.  This surely instills a culture of excellence and guest emphasis – right?

But, the wagons are circled.  Let's pay our employees as little as possible, they should still arrive at work, and they should be productive.  We understand the focus on maximizing profits, particularly where the margins are so tight.  However, short-term thinking will not lead to a level of reputation excellence.  It will not happen.

The New York Times in early July, 2014 ran a thoughtful article about wages and fast food company market significance, "Paying Employees to Stay, Not to Go".  A number of companies were noted as paying above the minimum wage of $7.25 and explaining their reasoning for this strategy.  The companies included:  Bolocco Burrito, In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack, Moo Cluck Moo, and Starbucks. 

On the other side of the debate were several big players like McDonald's and Subway.  The arguments were pointed, yet the major players are really only bidding time before wages increase. You can cite your chosen statistics. The minimum wage will change, and they know it.  They may be protecting their short term revenue sights, but they are harvesting a potential brand backlash, as well.

John Pepper of Bolocco's laid out the argument precisely:  "We were talking about building a culture in which we want our team members to take care of our customers.  But we asked, ‘What is in it for them?'  Honestly, very little".

Harry Moorhouse of Moo Cluck Moo went even further to support his company's starting wage.  "The whole notion that it's all kids starting out and they don't deserve to be paid much, that's all specious.  We're paying people $15 an hour so they have a living wage, so they care about you when you come in the store."

So, how do we process those warm bodies, our Brand Ambassadors who advance our reputations?  It is surprising that in all these articles about the minimum wage for fast food, no one has done a study about turnover and that resultant cost.  We are not talking about hiring executives here, but there is time involved, everything from the interview, new hire process and training. 

Time costs money.  Add to that the fact that it is the right thing to do with the aim to create a culture of care and excellence, focused upon the guest, leaves little slide room.  We can do better, voluntarily!

John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA's innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world's preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience. For more information, visit www.LRAWorldwide.com.
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