Simple Steps to Loyalty

It is tempting to make the recipe for success more complicated than it needs to be. When that happens, businesses from all segments of the foodservice industry can lose focus on what truly drives success: creating great customer experiences.

During Technomic’s Fast Casual Trends and Directions conference on the eve of the National Restaurant Show in Chicago, Mitesh Gala, author and founder of Altametrics, listed three steps to achieve that goal and made it sound so easy: define what you want for your company, determine what your customers expect and implement the right systems to deliver. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, things are rarely that simple in today’s foodservice industry where growth aspirations serve as clouds that can obstruct an organization’s view of their customers.

Every business wants to develop a loyal customer base because doing so can serve as a foundation for success. It becomes easy to forget, though, that customer loyalty means customers develop deep emotional relationships with companies they do business with, Gala told the Technomic crowd.

In today’s foodservice industry, attempts to build loyalty often take the form of low pricing or deep discounting. And those efforts can build loyalty — to the discount and not the provider, Gala pointed out. While a relationship between buyer and seller does form, it tends to be one that’s very shallow and prone to change once the customer can find better pricing somewhere down the street.

The key to driving customer loyalty? “Employee engagement will make or break customer loyalty,” Gala said. “People can tell when employees are engaged in the business.” Further, developing and implementing the correct systems helps facilitate employee engagement. Inward systems that facilitate only the company and not the customer will only stifle the employees’ abilities to engage customers and develop those deep emotional relationships that everyone craves.

One segment that’s doing a much better job of creating these types of relationships is the college and university segment. Over the years, college and university foodservice providers have had to fend off stereotypes about their food and service while competing with chains that set up shop across the street hoping to gobble up valuable dollars from students and faculty alike.

As much of this issue will show you, those days are long gone for the leaders in the college foodservice community. They continue to embrace and define such leading culinary trends as local sourcing, celebrating unique flavor profiles and more. And by embracing social issues like sustainability and waste management, today’s college foodservice operators run businesses that make their constituents proud to patronize and help support the type of lifestyle they aspire to lead.

None of this happens by accident. Regardless of whether they realize it, today’s successful college foodservice providers follow Gala’s three-step plan to perfection.

Maybe building customer loyalty is not so difficult after all.

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