How to 10X Your Customer Service

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

Since the day of the ancient Greeks, man has been searching for ways to become better. It is in our nature to evolve, to become our best. Restaurants, too, have a need to become better and adapt to a changing market or risk extinction. 

Let’s be real. The restaurant industry is tougher than ever, yet there are quite a few concepts that continue to increase sales and profits year after year. Their secret is that they push pass mediocrity and embrace a level of service that can be described as 10X. 

So, what exactly is 10X Thinking? In simple terms, you think about how you can improve what you do by a factor of 10 times, rather than by 10% like others. It challenges you to think about everything you do in terms of revolutionary change rather than evolutionary change.

Common restaurants might have a goal to increase sales by 10%. A person adopting the 10X principle would take that concept even further by looking for improvement in not only sales, but also catering, guest satisfaction, engagement on social media, increased guest check average and employee satisfaction and retention. 

If you want to start on the path to a 10X Restaurant, here are three areas to start you out.

1. Create a culture of excellence.

Mediocrity is a cancer in the restaurant business. Scroll through Yelp! for 10 minutes and you will see that this is apparent. So many restaurants seem to just survive and not thrive. That could change in a flash if they adopted a culture of excellence. Culture is the atmosphere and energy of a restaurant. It starts like a seed from the owners and managers and flows down to the staff. Always remember that culture flows down not up, and culture always starts with you. 

Setting the bar high and keeping it there is not an easy task. There will be resistance. There will be complaining. There will be those that will try to get you to ease up and lower your standards. Here is where most fail to have the conviction to stay the course. Here is where you need to be faithful to the 10X Principle. 

So, you say you are just a small street taco restaurant. How can I be excellent? Easy. You become the very best street taco restaurant in your market. You set the standard and you engage with your customers on social media. You research the most authentic recipes. You source the best ingredients and maybe even incorporate local farms. You start a taco revolution! 

2. Alway be training.

Military Special Ops Teams train like lives depend on it. They do. You should think that training in your restaurant is vital to your restaurant’s survival. It is. 

In an average restaurant, training is usually an employee manual with what to do and what not to do, combined with a training program that consists of following another staff member around for 2-3 days before they are turned loose on customers.

In a 10X Restaurant, training plans are developed and conducted by staff members who have been selected to be trainers. Training lasts for as long as needed until the new hire can pass a series of tests. Training never stops for the 10X Restaurant! Industry experts and consultants are scheduled to keep the training fresh and innovative. The team learns how to build better rapport with guests, the power of non-verbal communication and understanding their core values. 

Schools is never out for the 10X Professional.

3. Change the hierarchy of needs. 

For a long time, the industry has held on tight to the belief that the customer came first in the hierarchy of customer service. Then, Richard Melman came along with his company Lettuce Entertain You, and there was a shift in that thinking. 

“The customer is not always right, but they are always the customer and it’s okay for the customer to be wrong.” 

Melman's philosophy had a big impact on Danny Meyer, the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group who has incorporated the principle into what he calls “Enlightened Hospitality.” In this hierarchy, the employee is at the top of the list. 

You hear it quite often for restaurants that, “people are our most valuable asset.” Sadly, very few actually walk the talk. 10X Thinking puts the employee in what special operations teams call “front sight focus.” It is a mindset that they are trained to use to be more effective in combat. The principle can be adopted by restaurant operators seeking to take their business to 10X levels. 

Who you allow on your team to interact with your guests is one of the most important jobs you have as a restauranteur, operator or chef. Selection is the key factor in pulling together a winning team. Hire for character and train skill. It can be said that hiring in the restaurant industry is a lot like mining for gold. You have to dig through some dirt to find a gold nugget. The trick is to treat that person like gold when you find them. 

10X customer service is not easy. It takes a commitment to always be learning, improving, setting high standards and sometimes taking risks. The reward can be the difference from having your restaurant just surviving to thriving.