Today I had the most devastating lesson in customer retention. First let me set the stage properly, Pinx did not lose any customers. In fact we (Bumper and I) made our weekly Wednesday delivery to our Law Firm…Money, Money, Money (real firm, but this is a fake name). I personally look forward to this delivery because I get the opportunity to visit my favorite SF Deli “Shorty Dolemite”. Every week I look forward to the Wednesday special their signature Roast Beef sandwich. Oh so tender, mouth watering, succulent, and requiring absolutely no condiments whether you use the Au Jus or not, it is the PERFECT sandwich. In the past 8 months I think I have personally provided 8 converts by my impassioned recounting of the virtues of this monument worthy of the Earl of Sandwich. Again to put this in its context, I am not a fan of sandwiches at all (burgers and Philly Cheesesteaks don’t count as sandwiches). So now that the stage has been set…let us begin.
Today we had an incredible challenging day: 3 jobs that would once more drag us out into a 14 hour run. After the breakfast job went out to the Presidential Offices of California University, we harnessed our energies to get the Short Rib Loaf Lunch out on time. Though we were preparing our own signature dishes – and doing our due quality assurance testing along the way – I could not help but hear the call of my sandwich! We got the order out on time. As a matter of fact we were early. Bumper and I got the buffet set up in record time. We walked our customer through his order: the carnivore, vegetarian, and vegan options. We left the building to strike out for our lunch.
On the way up the block, I noticed the sandwich board did not have the “usual” special. Surely this was a mistake. Or possibly they have the special available for their faithful customers. Bumper and I entered the doorway. With two registers before us both occupied, I was provided the opportunity to scan the board and the menus. This was not boding well. It appeared my sandwich had been erased from all memory like some sick plot twist from MIB 3. When I finally got the front I asked the question to hear the words that felt like, “it’s not you it’s me”…IT’S GONE!
Are you kidding me? The greatest sandwich known to man is gone. Not to return because the drought does not produce the mushrooms for the recipe. On the one hand, I can understand the Chef’s commitment to his craft. I have battled people behind challenging Chef’s parings. When you have a product you believe in, you don’t want to produce an inferior product. After all it’s the product that breeds loyalty. But is it the product alone?
Walter White schooled us that the purer the product (better the quality) the higher the yield, less waste is produced and the greater the profit. We are not talking about River Dance inspiring Blue Magic, but Green Eggs and Ham (figuratively). So the key to customer loyalty is having and maintaining a very high quality product. Consistency. With that consistency, you have to have availability. Can your customers get it? The beauty of this deli, is that they created a demand by only providing the product on certain days creating a controlled demand situation. But the next trick is to keep the customers coming back. With the menu change, I was absolutely gut punched. How many other customers felt the same? Of course, I am very serious about my food. Some people wait in line for Spiderman Foamposites or Jordans, I wait for food. But I digress….
What did this lesson bring home to Pinx? If it’s a fan favorite…LEAVE IT ALONE! For this to work, we have to be engaged with our customers. Their voice has to be loud and clear, so we don’t make moves that alienate the very constituents that are our life’s blood. Keep the favorites just scarce enough, to make the people crave us. Don’t allow supply chain issues cripple our operation. Have a “Plan B” because people are serious about their food. I learned my lessons. It is easiest to keep and grow a relationship with an existing customer (building on what you have) than to find new customers. So I’ll introduce our customers to our tasty treats, they’ll try them and the relationship begins. We’ll keep introducing items as we grow, but we’ll keep the menu both familiar and unique.
Because life is short…everyone should eat something memorable.