A Simple Approach to Great Customer Service from Pike’s Place Fish Market

Customer Service Lessons from Fish Sellers



I came across this book on display at a group team building activity in my former hotel. This Team Building company brings lots of different corporate groups to our hotel. This particular group was learning about providing Great Customer Service. The book looked like a children story book similar to the cover of “Who Moved my Cheese”. It even had a boring cover with just the word “Fish” and a drawing of a fish on it. So I just passed it by. Yes I am guilty of Judging a Book by its Cover. 
Then lately my present boss, highlighted of about Customer Service and how we can try to make the work more fun even for work that is boring and mundane. He highlighted about the Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle, America that is famous. People go there not only to buy fish but also to see the antics of the staff there. He said that there is even a motivational book written about this place. I remembered this book and got it. Like most books in this lens, its a simple to understand and a fun read. The book shares with you how to boost your employee morale and thus increases your revenue.

Seattle- Monday Morning
The story starts with an introduction on how a First Guarantee Financial supervisor named Mary Jane Ramirez life changed after the death of her husband within a year of moving to Seattle. And how she reluctantly accepted a promotion to manager of the dreaded third floor. A department which is the joke of the other departments in the bank. A place that everyone wishes they didn’t need to come in contact with. Some department managers say that the third floor is able to suck the life out of you. Working there she realized why people dreaded coming to third floor. It was due to staff doing everything slowly. She then pondered on how she can bring life to the third floor. She noticed that the job was boring, so she needs to make the job exciting.
One day to avoid hearing negative comments about her new department during lunch breaks. She normally goes for lunch by the waterfront, but today she happens to take a turn towards the market. Here is where she finds the world different from what she knows. She finds the Famous Pike Place Fish Market. She is amazed at the energy of the people selling fish there. They seem to enjoy their work. In between the chaos she happens to chance upon Lonnie, one of the workers there. Lonnie offered to explain how she can use the Fish Market’s strategy in her workplace. The very next day, during her lunch break she rushes to meet up with Lonnie. He explains that all jobs are boring. Then he goes on to say the first strategy that makes the Pike Place different from the other fish markets, the first strategy is as follow. The first strategy is “There is always a choice about the way you do your work even if there in not a choice about the work itself” 

Choose Your Attitude 
Lonnie shares with Mary Jane how he and his friends changed their attitude when they come to work everyday. Everybody thinks working in a dreary,wet and cold fish market can be a difficult job but Lonnie and his friends come to work with the right attitude. With this thought in her mind, Mary Jane went back to work and confronted her boss on what was commented by the big bosses in the meeting. Her boss then gave her a recording of the meeting. Mary Jane started to notice that by changing her attitude, she in turn changed her surroundings. Everything started to fall in place and she plan to bring this same attitude to work on Monday morning. She makes a note that she have to change her attitude first before she can change others. On Monday morning she calls for a meeting with her staff and highlighted the concerns of the VP and how he referred to the third floor as toxic energy dump. After her talk, she found out her staff wanted to change but they needed a push. She saw some improvement in their attitude.

Play 
The second ingredient was what kids do best and we forget to do as we go older which was PLAY . Lonnie teaches that the fish market uses play in their daily work and with that they enjoy their daily job. The benefits of using play in our daily work life is productivity improves, there is a low turn over, teamwork and friendships. This I noticed in my present job, I am so afraid in failing or looking bad to my bosses. I didn’t enjoy myself therefore I felt work was boring. Even in my home life, me and my other half used to be playful but lately we both became serious and had a lot of arguments. So now I changed my attitude and played more at work and at home.

Make Their Day 
The third ingredient to great customer service was to include your customers in your play. This will give a lasting impression to your customer. People will always remember something unique that they have done. Include your customers but don’t go overboard.

Be Present 
The last ingredient is to be present. This is an important ingredient that I am trying to teach my managers. A manager have to be present in the restaurant. He have to be seen talking and showing concern about the food and beverages served. I learnt this technique from a manager in my former place. There we had a very slow kitchen, where food normally comes out after 1 hour. What most people do is to normally hide in the kitchen. So naturally we received a lot of complains. But what one new manager did was to go from table to table talking and assuring the customer the food will be out. He made sure the food came out fast and hot. He keeps telling the staff if the food is served steaming hot, then the customer will know that the kitchen is slow. If its served cold then the customer will think we were slow in pickup

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This explains the numerous restaurants, cafes, warungs, bistros, or kopitiams in almost every corner of Asian countries. It seems like everyone knows and wants to open a restaurant. You don’t need to be a chef to open a restaurant. In fact, most restaurant owners can’t even cook.! Many are politicians, singers, actors, models, housewives, retirees, businessmen who love food or even foreigners who want to introduce food from their homelands. While anybody can open a restaurant, it takes a trully hardworking, dedicated and discipline entrepreneur to open and operate a successful restaurant.

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Learning by Watching Television

Importance of planning in restaurant business or any business.


Strategy

Well this post is not a Restaurant Promo Idea but an example on the importance of palnning in everything we do.
I feel everyone has heard this mantra at a point of their life. The mantra goes like this “If you want to succeed in life, you need to do something you are passionate about“. Mine is the Food and Beverage. So much so that my other half says that she is the second wife, my job is my first wife. Thats true. I can’t stop working. When I am eating out, I always observe what the wait staff do, how food is presented and so on. Even when we stay in hotels, I like to wake up early and walk around the hotel. My wife always say when we are on holiday why can’t I leave my work at home. Even the shows I like to watch are related to the Food and Beverage field. Nowadays after assuming a management position my playlist have increased. I like shows that are related to the management and also marketing field. One such show is the Apprentice reality show with Donald Trump. I not only like to see how they market or complete their projects. You can also get some management and leadership lesson from these type of shows especially from the boss Donald Trump.
Recently AXN started a new Apprentice Series based in Asia. Its on every wednesday and is called of course “Apprentice Asia”. The boss here will be Tony Fernandez. Tony Fernandez is really an inspirational guy. From being in the music industry he bought a failing airline for only RM1 (with a heavy debt attached to it and turn it into one of the best low cost airlines. You can read something about him here My Heroes- People who have inspired me.
Well lets go back with the opening episode of Apprentice Asia. The teams were divided by gender, each team was given the task of selling fish at a market. The team with the highest profit margin wins the challenge. Should be a simple task for a bunch of professionals but they failed misserable. The ladies team lost about RM100 and the men’s team lost RM600.
We will review why the men lost. The main word was STRATEGY.
They didn’t sit down and plan their strategy. When they arrive at the market they quickly set up stall. They didn’t do a market survey, therefore they didn’t know whether they were selling higher or lower. They let the buyers who is very savvy with fish prices dictate the price. They didn’t do a price list based on a profit margin, therefore they sold at a lower price. One of the participants started calling customers eventhough they were not ready. Even Sun Tzu has something to say about planning, its from the first chapter called “Laying Plans”.26. “Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.”
From this show, you will see the importance of planning especially when doing a menu. Even the simplest task like selling fish needs to carefully planned. In a previous post I have elaborated the steps in creating your menu.

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The Brilliant Basics to Exceptional Restaurant Service- Free E Book



Service in the front is as important as as a good chef. I have mentioned this in my website Restaurant Promo Ideas previously. You can have the best Michelin Star Chef, but if your staff can’t sell the product or can’t get the food item to the customers table properly and promptly. You will slowly loose your customers.As customers are the life blood of any restaurant, your business will gradually decline. There are lots of resources on the net to help you train your service staff both free and with a price tag. This free ebook consist of 13 chapters of the author’s experiences and knowledge in relation to restaurant service. The Brilliant Basics to Exceptional Restaurant Service

 

 

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Service Equals Performance Equals Service

by Richard Saporito



Service can be described as a “performance” of some kind involving two parties, whereby one party is the benefactor and the other party is the performing party receiving some type of monetary payment. The value of the Service depends on the personal experience of the benefactor. When I looked it up in Webster’s, there it was at #11 out of 31 definitions. The payment part was not included, but the key word mentioned was “performance.”

As I relate this to restaurants, it’s so easy to see why dining room service is excellent training for actors, since they’re performing all of the time. There might be days when their energy level is low, yet they are still expected to perform in the show on stage at night. It is not much different for dining room service staff whose livelihood depends quite a bit on how they look and act before many people on any night. The word “performance” makes a lot of sense when relating it to other Service fields such as medical, legal, financial, and armed; even in religion they have prayer services.

With increased human knowledge and modern inventions, the term “Customer Service” has evolved over time. Whenever a new technology is invented, an array of “services” develops making it accessible to the general public. Its success depends upon product “performance” and the product-related “Services performance.” Whether it is a bulb to make a room bright or a flying machine that sends people around the world faster, the need for developed services attached to new technologies does create jobs.

Even at the computer we dial up our Internet “Service” Provider to gain access to the information highway. The instantaneous delivery of sorted out information within seconds is now the norm. Proper navigation “performance” (that word again) allow us to surf the World Wide Web, streamlining information at our fingertips. ” With improved search engine technology, the return of consumer searches has become more categorically specific, proving that better performance results in better Service.

Take a look around and you will notice Service performances touch every part of our daily lives – many of which are taken for granted.

 

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About the author: Richard Saporito is a NYC Restaurant Insider with more than 30 years experience. He is currently the President of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, Inc. and the author of “How To Improve Dining Room Service.” Discover how to improve your restaurant’s dining room service and dramatically increase your profits here:

How to Improve Dining Room Service E- Book

 

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Don’t Eliminate the Middle Man—Add One!

by Richard Saporito



Today, there are situations when we actually add a “middle person” instead of eliminating one for increased service efficiency. If it’s cost-effective and demand is high, then proper market positioning will make it a worthwhile endeavor. For example, my sister just informed me of a food delivery service in New Mexico that will let you choose one out of many different food outlets (all types of ethnic/fast food)- and then guarantees delivery within a specific time period. This not only gives the customer assurance of reliability, but more choices for dining take –out style.

In other areas of industry, the same idea holds true. There are electrical suppliers that no longer manufacture the product of electricity, but now are involved only in the delivery process of electricity to the customers. Because of market fluctuations, the new delivery supplier will utilize many other different energy suppliers to get the product of electricity to the customer efficiently and at the best market price. Again, adding the middle man seems to benefit all around.

In relating this theory to restaurants, it is the food runner that has become popular, especially in the larger dining establishments that rarely existed years ago. Food runners are employees who only work the rush hours of the dining room- only running food back and forth from the kitchen to the tables with light dining room table interaction (condiments, fresh pepper etc.). It is a 2-4 hr. shift, depending on how long the dining rush lasts.

Before large restaurants existed, the waiter would complete the process of order taking and delivering of the food. Today, the food runner can be implemented (additional middle man) relieving the waiter of this time consuming and sometimes painstaking process. The waiter must share a percentage of his tip with the runner, but in return his job is eased because the food is delivered for him- allowing extra time to work more tables and up sell to customers thereby increasing sales. Though, it does remain the waiter’s nresponsibility to check the table for additional diner needs– either while the food is being placed by the runner or shortly thereafter. The tip-out to the runner is usually 10-15% depending on the service system, but well worth it if waiter sales can increase by 20-30 %.

The main point is the food runner addition improves delivery service efficiency while being cost-effective (if the sales increase outweighs the payroll increase). Properly integrating employees into the dining room with exact middle man connections always makes for smooth service flow. It’s not a matter of just blindly throwing extra employees at a service problem, but organizing the best system possible with the minimal amount of labor.

Adding the middle man can sometimes streamline operations in such way that it becomes irresistible and impossible to ignore. Always, the demand arises when delivery routes of a service system become overloaded.

 

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About the author:  Richard Saporito is a NYC Restaurant Insider with more than 30 years experience.  He is currently the President of Topserve Restaurant Consulting, Inc. and the author of “How To Improve Dining Room Service.”  Discover how to improve your restaurant’s dining room service and dramatically increase your profits here:

How to Improve Dining Room Service E- Book

 

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This book says everything I have always believed. Its not only the Chef that makes a restaurant successful. The wait staff is also important. Most successful restaurants all have one thing in common…
They provide customer service which exceeds their customer’s expectations!

From the statistics below you will see why its so important
Well, consider these statistics from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs in
Washington, DC…
For every complaint you’re aware of, there are 26 additional customers who
have unresolved problems or complaints…

A dissatisfied customer will tell 9 to 15 people about their displeasure and
sometimes they will tell as many as 20.

On the other hand, this same group also found…
Up to 96% of customers would do business with you again if they felt you acted
quickly and to their satisfaction and many said they would refer other people.

On average, happy customers will tell 4-6 people about their positive experience.

The Fact Is…
Businesses that provide extraordinary customer service can improve their
profitability, increase market share and will have customers who are willing to pay
more for their products and services simply because of the extraordinary service
they receive.

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