Building your brand even when its not going to plan or "how to successfully stall 18 people"

Paul - 24 th February 2015

Once again I find myself writing about a restaurant experience. This time it’s Hickory’s Smokehouse in West Kirby on the Wirral. I’m pretty time conscious. I like to ensure I’m on time where ever I go. For me this actually translates to being early (I know I’m weird). On this occasion my family of four was invited to a friend’s 40th birthday meal. We arrived thirty minutes early for a 6pm meal. We settled into the bar, ordered a drink and waited for everyone.

Just before 6pm everyone else arrived to be told the table wasn’t ready yet and we’d have to wait. We didn’t know how long we’d have to wait. Ten minutes later we were approached by a waitress and told that they would give us a few bottles of Prosecco to quench our thirst. They offered anyone who wasn’t drinking alcohol a soft drink. The kids were asked if they wanted to pour their own slushy drinks from behind the bar and adults were invited to take a photo of them doing it. It was also pointed out that the restaurant had a cinema for the kids. A small room at the side of the restaurant with cinema style seating that the kids could pop in and out of at will; which they did. Our Prosecco arrived and we were also treated to three baskets of nachos to tide us over.

A free drink, free snacks and some fun for the kids. That worked for me.

We spotted a number of staff hovering behind us and as soon as a large table cleared they descended like vultures and in a quick military style operation prepared it and invited us over. It was now 6:45pm and I realised that despite a few grunts of initial disapproval the restaurant had successfully stalled 18 people and kept us happy. We ate our meal and put over £450 through the til that evening.

So what did I learn from that experience? When something goes wrong the way you recover it is critical. They could easily have ignored us, hoped the table would clear more quickly and avoid us until it was ready. After all it was heaving and they were full to the rafters. What they actually did was proactively handle the situation. Various members of staff engaged with us, kept us happy with some drink and food while we waited and demonstrated their urgency to get us seated by throwing staff at the table to turn it around fast! They’d managed to handle a situation that could have turned negative quite quickly, maintain our good will, and still deliver a great evening for the 40th birthday girl.

I’d recommend going there. Maybe that is why you have to book weeks in advance to get a table?

Paul has a customer experience and operational leadership background. Prior to joining Brand Vista Paul was Head of Customer Experience Design at Virgin Media and is a specialist in designing and implementing brand enhancing customer journeys that deliver commercial results.
Find out more about Paul