The large, shiny green fly lay flat on its back, eyes bulging and lifeless among the other greens on my wife’s salad plate—its tiny little black legs reaching skyward, beside a river of ranch dressing. “Eeeooooo!” I turned to see Susan’s face puckered in disgust.
You might know, MY first thought was—“Systems failure!”
A few years ago, some close friends of ours from Kansas had called saying they would be coming to Tennessee for a family visit, and they hoped to have dinner one evening with my wife Susan and me.
Susan quickly recommended a popular Nashville restaurant that had just opened its second location, not far from where we live. The chef, who years before had established the first restaurant, calling it by his first name, had become very successful and well-known for his great food and service.
Susan and I had eaten at the Nashville store on a number of occasions, and had enjoyed getting to know the always-genial chef with his rich Eastern accent.
When our friends, Karen and Tim, arrived at our home, we rode together to dinner, as we assured them of the “wonderful experience” they were about to have. I have to admit I bragged a bit about knowing the chef, personally, and hoped for the chance to introduce our friends to him. Both Karen and Tim are successful business people, well-traveled and familiar with nice dining, so it looked to be a good choice.
With an air of confidence, high expectations, and hunger pangs all around, the four of us arrived at the restaurant within minutes. I wondered that the parking lot was less than half full—but, after all, it was a bit early and it was a new restaurant, not yet known in our small town.
On entering the restaurant, a hostess, carrying an armload of menus, seated us almost immediately at one of several empty tables, by a window, then quickly retreated to the foyer.
Finding our table sticky and crumb-coated, I signaled for a waitress who was busy at another table. A sober glance, and a mildly-annoyed finger in the air, told us we would need to wait for assistance. We would just have to keep our hands and (God forbid) elbows off the table, until someone came to wipe up the leavings of the prior guests.
In due time, a young man arrived at our table and, after a few hasty swipes with a soppy rag, also made a hasty retreat.
"Ah, well," I smiled at our always gracious guests, "It'll dry soon!"
Right on cue, our always upbeat friend, Tim (who had likely missed his calling as a stand-up comic), supplied some welcome laughter, while—hands and elbows still hovering over the table—we waited for our "wonderful experience" to begin.
During the wait, Karen told us she had just had extensive oral surgery and there was not much on the menu that she could eat! But, she insisted we all order our steaks and enjoy—she would just eat "something soft." I'm thinking pasta, but she chose a creamed-something soup and water. So much for her dining experience—I had no idea!
Having all placed our orders, we found we had plenty of time to talk about...well, actually, our whole lives (or maybe take a short vacation), before our food would arrive.
Eventually, three salads were placed before us looking a bit wilted, as if they had used the last lettuce in the bin, having served the fresher produce to earlier patrons.
Karen's soup, it turned out, came with an added attraction. Using her salad fork, Karen fished a long, brown HAIR out of her bowl and nicely pushed it aside, saying, "It's okay, I'm not really that hungry anyway."
Almost at the same time, Susan’s more formidable “Eeeooooo” had caught our attention. There it was—a small horse fly; shiny, green and dead, atop the butter lettuce.
This actually happened, and for all our attempts to make light of it, it was really embarrassing!
What if this happened to you—maybe during a business dinner with clients on whom you want to make a good impression?
I called the waitress and showed her the fly and the hair. To my surprise, she looked at us, as if we were trying to start some kind of trouble, even as we tried to keep it low-key. I asked if the owner, our friend the chef, was available and she informed us he was at the Nashville location.
The hostess, who turned out to be the manager, finally came to our table with a mild apology and offered us a 10 percent discount off our bill. Still, not wanting to make a scene, I accepted her "gracious" offer. As you might guess, however, the rest of our meal came under suspicion, not to mention intense scrutiny, as we proceeded with caution, thinking to find more items of interest.
TO BE SURE...the chef's SECOND restaurant was NOT ready for prime time, I decided. There had been a complete breakdown of systems for giving customers a consistent experience of fine dining.
According to Michael Gerber, author of the book "The E-Myth—Business Format Franchises," have reported a success rate of 95 percent; whereas, independently-owned businesses report a 50 percent failure rate.
Are you aware that 85 percent of all businesses fail in the first five years?
Are you further aware that 75 percent of those new businesses that DO succeed—are FRANCHISES?
Why, you might ask, do franchises succeed? The simple fact is—they have proven systems for operating, which ensures quality and service.
Yes, franchises have their problems; they’re NOT perfect. However, if you compare a franchise with a small independent company (that has virtually NO written systems for operations), you can bet you will find a lot more “hairs” and “flies” causing chaos and lost customers (not to mention, using a system of apology and giving discounts, hoping to appease customers, due to their failure in giving proper customer service).
You may say, “Philip, are you saying I need to become a franchisee? Besides I’ve been in business for 10 years. I made it past the five year mark and I’m still here!”
No—but I am saying, your business needs to be franchise-ready, unlike the Chef in the story above.
As to WHY you need to be franchise-ready, I recommend you read “The E-Myth.”
To know HOW to be franchise-ready, you might read our book, “System Busters.”
In case you’re wondering—Yes, I did think a 10 percent discount for a dirty table, an amazingly long wait for our meal, finding a fly and a hair, and then being treated like we were trying to get a free meal, was pretty insulting! But, I paid the bill and left the normal tip.
Needless to say, my wife and I have not been back to visit either of the Chef's restaurant locations—and our friends were delighted to choose the eatery on their next visit!
Nevertheless, that evening did end up on a good note. We all went to a Starbucks, not far from the Chef’s restaurant; we resumed our conversation and drank great cups of coffee—something we could always expect from such a well-systemized franchise! Did I mention? Great systems work!