Published on: May 3, 2023
by Michael Sansolo
Two weeks ago, KC lamented the decline of a once-iconic New York City restaurant and used its plight to make an important point about the trouble with a company resting on its reputation instead of constantly building on it.
I recently had a similar experience, and it surprised me.
In the world of better burger joints, Shake Shack seemed to be a real comer, bringing its New York panache to shopping centers everywhere. Maybe too many places. And maybe too fast to maintain quality.
Within two miles of my house in Maryland are two Shake Shacks, along with two McDonald’s and one Five Guys. And based on a recent experience, Shake Shack is the least likely to get our business.
It started right inside the door where we encountered the employee who takes orders. I’d like to say we were greeted, but that would be a vast overstatement. The staffer didn’t come near making any connection through eye contact, conversation or anything else. In fact, it seemed like my wife and I were inconveniencing her.
Sure, it could've been an isolated circumstance. A bad day. Maybe just a bad moment. And not every staffer has to be extremely extroverted and engaged with customers, especially in the world of retail and foodservice.
But it represents a failure of management, which needs to be paying attention every day and every moment, understanding the truism that there never is a second chance to make a first impression. If you have an employee who simply doesn’t engage well with customers, don’t put them in a customer facing position. Surely there are other things that staffer can do well. And, staffers have to be trained in how to greet and deal with customers, and told why this is important. (See KC's FaceTime this morning for more about this.) At this Shake Shack, all we felt was disinterest and maybe a touch of disdain.
Incredibly, things went downhill from there. My wife is less than pleased with Shake Shack, finding their burgers too salty. On this trip, I agreed with her. Plus our fries were lukewarm at best.
As we sat eating this mediocre meal all I could say was we could’ve done a lot better at the nearby McDonald’s, while my wife made it clear that any burgers we get out from now on would be at the far superior Five Guys.
But I don’t share this story to shame a single fast food outlet, but rather to offer a reminder to retailers out there. Your business, as you know, is built one transaction at a time and one customer interaction at a time. (Again, see KC's FaceTime this morning for more about this.) You can’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly each time, but you have to stack the odds in your favor.
The means making sure your front line managers train their people as best as possible to deliver on the promise each and every time. That means ensuring that the products you sell are always at the level that meets the customer expectation, especially in a time of rising prices.
Now granted there’s little you can do about inflation or the labor shortage, but you still have to deliver the best possible experience every time out.
We quote it a lot here on MNB, but it is worth repeating - Norman Mayne's dictate that "reputation is what you had yesterday. Today, you have to earn it all over again."
That lesson clearly has been lost at Shake Shack, where our recent experience means that it has been shaken out of the mix. Don't let it be lost on you - but rather seize the moment and turn it into a win.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com.
His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.
And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.
For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.