Archive for the ‘Hospitality’ Category

What exactly is Customer Experience?

I have had a few people lately ask me what exactly the Customer Experience is. To me it is all the aspects of an interacting with a consumer (product or service) other than the direct interaction itself. In the good old days we all spoke about customer service as being the be all and end all of making consumers or customers happy. Over the last decade as competition rose in every type of business and raised the bars relevant in each category, the experience became the new benchmark.  Here are a few examples…

Hospitality Industry – Today you see more restaurants, bars and hotels worrying about every aspect of your experience from the minute you walk in the front door, to all aspects during your stay and not just having a pint, a great meal or a clean room.

 B2B – In the past it may have been good enough to have the biggest brand or the cheapest product, but now it is about returning your phone calls, showing up on time, customizing your support or being there during challenging times. Building relationships.

 B2C (retail) – Beautiful displays, friendly people in store, try before you buy, better return policies, financing, washroom and baby changing facilities and big clean and clear aisles. All these make your experience more enjoyable.

 As I write the list of items above I am certain that I have missed some of the items that the average consumer would now expect from different business types (everyone’s list is different). It is the above aspects (and the ones I have missed) of any business that have now become the differentiation between one business and another. These are the aspects that help a business show you respect and care in exchnage for your consumer dollars. More so than ever before businesses are working hard to get better at them, because they understand the other option is to eventually go out of business as thier competition continue to improve its own experience.

 Just my two cents. How about you?


The Keg – Just can’t get enough…

 The Keg gets it. Not sure why, how, when or who created the approach to the business originally, but it works. It works in good times and it works in bad times. It works when you are celebrating with friends, having dinner with the family or just pulling up a chair at the bar and going it alone.

 So what is the “it” and how do they “get it”? Well there is a lot more to it than what I can put into a single Blog, but it really comes down to people and consistency of experience.

 The staff at the Keg are called “Keggers”. If any of you have worked at the Keg you probably still find opportunity to use the handle in conversation. Keggers are a special breed. They love the hospitality business or at least they do when they are on stage at the keg. I don’t think I can ever remember an unhappy staff member at the Keg…any Keg. I have likely been to a Keg in every province of Canada and in the US as well. No bad staff. How can it be? I think it has to do with hiring the right people and then treating them like they are your most important asset, because they are. The company spends boat loads of money on staff engagement parties, trips and activities to ensure that their staff know that they are important and appreciated. In addition, it keeps the staff connected and creates the stories and the culture that legends and great friendships are made of. My good friend Mac still tells me stories of his day as a Kegger 20 years ago and still has a special rapport with other staff he comes across in life.

 The consistency of experience is really about providing the fundamental aspects that are important to every dining experience and occasionally going above and beyond when required. The fundamentals (in addition to great staff) includes a great environment (who doesn’t love the new look of the Keg), quality food, cleanliness and the occasional product feature to inspire a new experience for a repeat customer.

 Take the above two ingredients and add a dose of empowerment to let staff and management address any situations that do not deliver the “Keg Experience” and you have the perfect recipe for success in good times and  bad. 

 Looking forward to my next trip back for another great experience.



Hand Dryers – Okay, am I crazy?

 Guys, need your help on this one.

 I know that many women judge their restaurant experience based on the cleanliness of the washroom which men often laugh at. Okay, maybe it is not the number one reason that women choose a restaurant, but it may be number #2 and at worst #3. This all said, I think I am starting to show some feminine qualities or maybe I am just maturing a little!

 Hand Dryers.

 Yep, that is how I choose my chicken wing places. Okay, so maybe it’s criteria #2 or #3, but there is nothing I enjoy more than the ability to get the sauce of a chicken wing out from beneath the nails of my fingers and off my hands, then be able to dry my hands properly. There are options out there and we have seen them all…

  1. Nothing available – Using pants, shirt, coat and other dark clothing pieces that will not show the dampness of the water. Mother always told me that was not acceptable so I try to avoid it.
  2. Toilet paper – always enjoyable as you try to piece the wet pieces together in the form of a towel. Extremely enjoyable. Even better when the restaurant uses 1 ply…nice.
  3. Paper towel – a great option, but cost, the environmental impact, the mess that can be created around garbage cans and the refilling are issues.
  4. The weak hand dryer – I can blow stronger than some of these machines! Seriously?

 Several years ago I saw a hand dryer demonstration at the Las Vegas Bar and Night Club Show and commented “this is exactly what is needed for wing places”. Well, I can’t say that everyone has listened, but to those that have installed one of these new high powered hand dryers, thank you. It is an absolute pleasure eating your wings or any other finger food and getting clean after the experience! Here are a couple examples that you may have seen in market today.

For those who get what it means to keep raising the game in your business, you would make the hand dryer part of your overall Customer Experience by branding it the way St. Louis has done in the pictures below. Well done guys!  Should not be long until everyone catches up to this small, but meaningful improvement in your customer experience…or will it?


Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day – Over Easy

 Over the last few weeks I have had the need to head downtown early in the morning for a few meetings over breakfast. Many of you likely have the same need on occasion and if you are anything like me, get a little frustrated with the search, experience and cost.

 For many years your option for breakfast was a hotel or the occasional greasy spoon (which I can certainly enjoy after a night on the town), but nothing was really there to provide quality food and a quality experience.  The closest thing was Fran’s, but I assume the numbers  (read experience) were just not working and thus they closed many of their locations over the last 20 years (there are a couple locations downtown still and I have not been back).

 My good friend Meredith invited me to Over Easy for breakfast a few weeks back at the Yonge Street location. I did not make the connection to the name, but realized after I walked in that it was in the same family as the Over Easy on Bloor just West of Avenue Road. As I walked in to the Yonge Street location (inside the Victoria Hotel) I was struck by the brightness and cleanliness of the restaurant, similar to the look and feel of Bloor Street. I was surprised to be met at the front door by a friendly gentleman who turned out to be the owner (Kyle). I was thrilled that they had malt toast on the offering and that the food was great value for what I call the “regular”.  So far, nothing that I could even poke a hole in and it gets better.

 I head back to the breakfast spot a couple more times over the next couple of weeks with Jack and Adam from MOvember USA. On different occasions both of them order “off the menu”. What, do you think you are on Jeopardy? You can’t go off the board? My eyes bulge out of my head thinking that they are insane to think that they can go off the menu for breakfast considering the great value and experience that these guys offer! …and the answer to their unique requests?   “No problem”.  You’re kidding me right? Where are the cameras? Alan Funt? Seriously?!?!?

 So what can I say? If you are looking for a great breakfast in a clean, casual setting in downtown Toronto and don’t want to pay an arm and leg, give Over Easy a try. The staff is great, Kyle is a pleasure to speak with and comes from a family that has been a staple in the hospitality industry in Toronto for many years. The food is great and the flexibility is awesome. Over Easy “gets it” and you should get there and get some too!

 For more info on locations or menu you can check their website: