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Some time ago I mentioned to you how fast-casual restaurants, like Panera Bread, had replaced some of their cashiers with kiosks. As you know, many grocery store chains, like-Mart, have self checkout, too. I wondered, with all money they are supposedly saving on not having to pay salaries and provide benefits for cashiers, why doesn’t it reflect in the cost of my groceries. It wasn’t saving me a dime. As a matter of fact, my costs have sneakily increased. I mean, hey, if I have to ring it up and bag it myself, pay me, give me a discount or a special coupon would work. Hell, make a light blink or ring a bell or something. Remember the old Kmart blue light special? One of those would do.
But replacing a warm body with a cold kiosk or self checkout had me feeling some kind of way. What about that person’s livelihood, their families, their finances and their quality of life? What about them? They took a service, and not to be condescending at all, they took a servant, as we all are. Not only was the human being gone, but the “good morning”, “good afternoon” and “have a great day”, the human doing, died. Yeah, you could hear a robotic voice say those things on command or read it on a screen, but there was no human interaction, no life exchange, no spirit and no energy.
I recently participated as a panelist about leadership effectiveness and was made aware of how some of our most popular fast-casual restaurants are testing and implementing table service. They want to reach out and touch you. With table service, you order your food from a cashier or at a kiosk and a human being brings your food to your table. What?! Say it ain’t so! That’s nothing new in the restaurant business, but the logic behind now offering it in quick food eateries is providing, as they say, “service with a more personal touch”. Of course I smiled big, listened and enjoyed the opportunity to chime and be heard.
Management is now looking for a particular personality type, within the company. They want people, people – people who like people. People who have people skills. Incredible! What they also realize is that people, their customers, want people. Genius! Service with a more personal touch. Imagine that. Now don’t get me wrong, the executives making the decisions are not being “touchy feely” at all, except for wanting to touch and feel a profit in their bottom line. They are projecting service will allow them to:
- Save time
- Offer consistent and faster service
- Collect data for and assess QA and QI
- Streamline processes
- Support system protocols
- Maintain cleanliness
- Minimize waste
- Keep an eye on you
All of that affects their bottom line. Understand profits are the desired end result, but people, human connection, is the driving force, the “how”. Some fast-casual, table service restaurants are investing in and conducting valuable training for those who will fill these roles. In some forums they are called table runners. Does that sound touchy. No matter what you call them, they will need soft skills, leadership development and relationship effectiveness training and support.
We, humans, have an innate need to be touched, desire interaction and conversations and have a longing for relationships, personal and professional. No matter how much technology, automation, platform integration, meeting projections, markers and margins, system introduction, SOP adherence, it’s funny how their new idea of “service with a more personal touch” is the same old tried and true truth, it’s all about relationships. So, the next time you dine in for a fast-casual meal, like a Panera Breads or a Chick filet, and you receive table service, enjoy a more personal touch, a life exchange, appreciate the service and the servant, and remember, it’s all about relationships!