From the Editor: Missing the Mark


Read this month’s “Hospitality Market Report,” and it’s clear the foodservice industry is still in the doldrums. Sure, the recession may be over, and, yes, it never quite hit Canada as badly as the U.S., but, while there are several restaurants and chains that are doing phenomenally well, overall, Canada’s $68-billion industry is still finding its mojo.

Not surprisingly, then, the terms used to describe the state of the industry in this month’s report are less than positive; they include such words as “hammered,” “mixed bag” and “struggling.” Clearly, sales growth is not stellar. In fact, many operators are posting marginal growth at best; more often than not, they’re simply stealing share.

Lower customer counts, reduced consumer spending and rising costs have become the norm, so today’s operators are being forced to innovate to appeal to an increasingly demanding customer base. Whether it’s a new menu item, a renovation or a new chef at the helm, operators are appealing to a consumer’s sense of adventure and desire for innovation.

Still, despite the ongoing challenges of running a restaurant, too many operators just don’t get it. How else can you explain the misses or miscues that plague so many restaurants across industry segments? For every operator who gets it, and does all the right things, there are countless others who fly by the seat of their pants and make mistake after mistake.

Take, for example, my recent experience at a restaurant. This particular establishment has existed for many years but was recently moved, attracting a great deal of attention in the process. Curious to try it, our party made reservations and ventured out. We were immediately directed to a table that was crammed so tight with other tables there was no space for us to squeeze in. When we asked to be moved, the waitress said there were no other tables and nothing could be done before she walked away. Annoyed, but attempting to make the best of the situation, we sat down, ordered drinks and hoped the family seated behind us would leave and we would have room to move. Fifteen minutes later, with no drinks in sight, we flagged our waitress who had clearly forgotten the order. She eventually returned with the drinks but no apology. In the meantime, the party next to us finished their meal and left, and lo and behold, we finally had room to manoeuvre ourselves; the waitress didn’t seem to notice.

After ordering and waiting anxiously for my dish to arrive, the waitress returned with a menu in hand and an impish grin. She asked me to take another look at the menu and order something else, as the menu item I ordered was no longer available. No apology, no explanation, no reasoning as to why she wouldn’t have known the restaurant had run out of this item prior to my order. To say we were annoyed is an understatement, and though we tried to get her to explain how the restaurant could run out of a featured item after only two hours of service, she responded by saying: “I don’t know, I stay out of these matters.” The economy notwithstanding, is it any wonder why so many restaurants are missing the mark?

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