Operations – Service Consistently

by Peter Thor, President Bellissimo Foods

Much has been written about the importance of consistent food quality, but what about service?  With respect to both your customers and your distributor, the #1 priority of restaurateurs beside price must be consistent service.  Consistent service really goes beyond just timing, however, and includes the importance of friendly and knowledgeable service.  This is absolutely true in all service businesses and is a critical ingredient for your success.

According to Technomic Inc. which surveyed pizza restaurant customers across the country, 49% of customers typically order the same type of pizza every time.  Interestingly, 31% also said they are willing to pay more for gourmet pizzas and specialty ingredients and toppings.  Also good for independent operators, 43% of respondents said that the chain restaurants all had very similar offerings.  All this creates an opportunity for independent pizzeria operators and small chains to differentiate themselves from national chains via food and service.

Since we visit a lot of pizzerias, a very common comment we hear from patrons is the importance of a friendly, family type atmosphere.  Making customers feel comfortable is all about consistently delivering welcome and attentive service.  Service, as well as food, must be differentiating factors for a successful independent pizzeria.  Perhaps your service point of difference is “greeting people with a smile and a hello as soon as they come in your door”, then make it consistent and an expectation in your staff training.  Others differentiate consistently by emphasizing their local community via sponsorships of teams or participation and promotion with local schools.  It is very important to encourage direct communication between the owners and service staff and customers.  What are your service points of difference?  Can you write them down and make them part of your consistent service?

National chains deliver cheap prices, heavy promotional discounts/coupons, and consistent food quality.  It may not be very good, but the food is consistently not very good.  We must be better in both service and food quality and do so on a consistent basis.

Your relationship with your distributor should really be the same as between your customers and your restaurant.  Whether you receive deliveries once, twice or three times per week, getting consistent service is paramount to your success.  So too is the relationship with your distributor.  Trusting them for service, sourcing quality products and fair pricing is all about consistency.  Service means accommodating your occasional problems and taking your priorities into consideration.  While size may be a consideration for some operators, there are a number of distinctions which should set a distributor apart from their competition.

Independent, locally-owned distributors (just like independent restaurant operators) must offer better, more authentic products and better service than “broad line” competitors; e.g. Sysco, US Foodservice, PFG, etc.  Belonging to the Bellissimo buying group enable Delco Foods to specialize in authentic pizza, Italian and internationally sourced products; competitively priced.  Delco Sales Reps received extensive product training and have lots of product information at their fingertips.  Ask them for their knowledgeable advice.

Service is more important than ever.  Savvy operators will develop a strong relationship with one distributor over others, taking advantage of their experience and extra services.  Delco Foods can print custom boxes, make special cheese blends, and even assist with menu planning and new product instructions.  Because Delco Foods doesn’t have to deal with a corporate bureaucracy and stifling rules, they can often be more flexible with respect to product sourcing, multiple deliveries and consistently meeting your priorities because you are an important customer.  Independent distributors mostly service independent restaurants whereas broad liners place their priorities on servicing chains; the very restaurants you compete against.

In these difficult economic times, even the best operators are challenged to review both products and services.  Making adjustments to improve what we do has never been more important than now.  Your distributor also faces the same challenges, and you’ll find a ready partner if you reach out to Delco Foods and work together to offer the best and most consistent dining experience for your customers.  Conditions are improving, albeit slowly, but they are improving.  Let’s use this time to do the same.

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