Building Loyalty Through Quality

Sometimes we try to save a buck or two that ultimately may just cost us more in the long run.  

It was the Sunday after the NFL Championship game, and I woke up that morning craving some barbecue. So, for lunch, I went to a familiar barbecue joint and ordered a pulled pork sandwich to go.  The aroma filled my car ride home – love that aroma – wish I had that scent on one of those hanging car odor eliminators.  I love BBQ.  

When I got home and opened the container, although it smelled terrific, something was amiss. I took the top bun off and looked at the pork. The pork was flat dry, and it didn’t look good. I added some barbecue sauce with the hopes of reviving the sandwich. However, when I took a bite, I realized that the bun was stale, and the BBQ sauce didn’t restore the sandwich.  I was sorely disappointed in this pulled pork sandwich and wondered what went wrong.  Then it dawned on me. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.  

Being Greek American, I have worked in several restaurants since the age of 12. Side note: when I graduated college, I thought I would be in the restaurant business for the rest of my life!   Back to the story – I completely understand the relevance of food costs. Restaurants are in a business where the product needs to be sold at a price that will cover the food costs and a portion of administrative costs. That’s the only way to turn a profit. It’s that simple. 

In this case, however, the pork and the bun were both from the previous day – old meat and a stale bun. The restaurant may have helped to control their food costs by doing this, but they created an unhappy customer in the process… a customer who is now most unlikely to make a return visit, and, will share the story with others! Saving a few pennies is not worth losing a customer. In this era of social media, bad reviews, pictures of the disappointing meal, and word of mouth can significantly impact your business.  

In the long run, the person preparing the sandwich should have asked themselves, “Would I eat this sandwich knowing that the quality was not up to standard?”  The answer should be no. However, the company policy might be to first use up yesterday’s food before using what is freshly prepared for that day. That type of policy is not a sustainable strategy. 

We all make mistakes. I get it, and I’m very empathetic to everyone in the restaurant business, especially during this pandemic. And, we must always watch our costs in order make a profit, but revenue drives that profit. If we don’t get return business, we lose revenue, and the business loses sustainability and growth. Period.

However, there seems to be a new way of controlling food costs: shrinkflation.  Using less food to help control food costs. There is a national sub shop chain that has been using this strategy. I ordered a turkey sub with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and mustard. What showed up was a sub roll with very little of the ingredients requested.  I have stopped ordering from this chain.  

Now, take this scenario into every business and apply the same analogy. I’ll use the professional speaking business as an example. As I do, think about your business. Have you ever attended a conference or seminar that feels like a canned presentation?  Or better yet, you attend a conference and recognize one of the speakers you enjoyed five years ago. You look at the title of the presentation, and it doesn’t sound like the presentation before. You decide to sit in their presentation, only to realize it is the same presentation that the speaker did five years ago, word for word— it just has a different title. Yesterday’s leftover food – old meat and a stale bun.   As a professional speaker, I customize my presentation to each audience and never do the same presentation twice.  Yes, this takes a lot of work –  and it has been a key driver in the success of my business for 12 years.  I will never serve leftovers to my audience or client. It’s simply not a good business plan or practice.  

The many years I spent in the restaurant business taught me a lot about customer service that I use in my business today.  We all need to remember that we are in the people business. We have no business when we don’t treat our people and customers with the respect they deserve and provide them with a consistent, reliable, and top-quality product or service.  Period

BTW- If you are ever in Bloomington, MN, you must go to Ciao Bella. Ciao Bella understands this philosophy, provides the best customer service, and backs it with a quality product. If you happen to go, ask for Sue, and tell her that I sent you. 

Contact me at if you would like to discuss how to increase your customer loyalty.