While this happened during the holiday season, my anecdote for today is applicable for anytime of the year.
I have always looked askance at the holiday season, for it always seemed that we did the bulk of December’s corporate drop-off catering business in two harrowing weeks from approximately December 8th through December 23rd. Of course this depended on exactly how the calendar would fall, but we always felt that while we had two amazing business weeks, the rest of the month was quiet, and while we exhausted ourselves trying to get the food out during the rush, we did less than normal business the rest of the month. Some of you may experience varying degrees of this phenomenon, but I think all of you understand the concept.
One day, after we had carefully choreographed the production and delivery of 35 orders, a huge day for us at the time, of varying size and complexity, we received a phone call at 10:30 a.m. The caller, a potential new customer, wanted to know if she could get 47 box lunches delivered that day at noon. After we—yes, including me, NOT a good example to set for my staff—were done whining about yet another inconsiderate customer who apparently did not read our website where we politely ask for 24 hour delivery notice, the order taker asked me what to tell the inquiring party.
I picked up the phone and gruffly said, “the soonest we can deliver those lunches would be 12:15, and that would be after another delivery; if there is a problem with the first delivery, your order may be late!” I went on to explain that we really required 24-hour notice and that this was a very busy time of year. The customer seemed a little put off, but she placed the order.
We did get all of the orders out, and later that night, after I had a chance to reflect upon another insane catering day, I realized that I had made a grievous error. I had accused my customer of a crime—the crime of ordering food from me!
I was burnt out, my staff was on edge, we were facing the holiday season and we were collectively out of patience. When we received the call, instead of taking a step back, I reacted without thinking. I turned my frustration toward the customer and made her literally feel bad for doing what we had tried so hard to achieve—getting people to order food so that we could deliver it.
The unfortunate unhappy ending to this tale is that while the customer ordered that one time, she never called back. We had pronounced her guilty of the crime of ordering without proper notice, but we were ultimately punished because we lost a customer.
Michael Rosman is a member of the Catersource Consulting Unit. If you would like information about these services or to schedule him for an on-site consultation at your location, please email Carl Sacks at [email protected]. His book, Lessons Learned From Our Mistakes – and other war stories from the catering battlefield is available through Amazon.