Invest in the training and development of your team members to provide a wow experience. This is the most overlooked and skipped step in our industry and one that Ted’s capitalizes on. Hiring the right person is a great start, but teaching them about your particular business before letting them serve your guests is vital to providing exceptional guest service.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Foxx.
David Foxx is a 30 year veteran of the restaurant industry and the Chief Operations Officer for Ted’s Café Escondido, where he is responsible for the management and operations of the multi-unit restaurant chain. On a mission to provide every guest who walks through Ted’s door the “Ted’s Way” experience, Foxx is not only hyper focused on strong profitability and strategic growth, but also training and developing the Ted’s team to serve food made from scratch daily and provide a high level of guest service.
Foxx has held several positions at Ted’s over the past 12 years, including managing partner and vice president of operations. Prior to joining the Ted’s team, Foxx was the General Manager for La Madeleine, a French bakery and café in Dallas, and was the owner/operator at Mr. Gatti’s Pizza.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In 1989, I thought I would be a police officer, and eventually, a detective. I started making pizzas for one of the major delivery chains to make a little money while I went to school. I loved it almost immediately. That position then turned into a management position and eventually, a general management position. Thirty-one years later, I have become a restaurant veteran, or “lifer” as we often refer to it. Those law enforcement aspirations were quickly replaced with restaurant business aspirations.
Along the way I’ve held several restaurant management titles, owned my own pizza place, opened new restaurants and closed some old ones. What I’ve always loved most is the interaction with people in our industry. The restaurant industry provides an outlet to support my local community, be a teacher and mentor, create friendships, and be exposed to situations no other industry can provide. I joined the Ted’s Café Escondido team in 2008 after visiting with a past mentor who had recently joined the company. Since then, I’ve been a part of the amazing growth at Ted’s that has taken us from the three locations when I joined the company to 10 locations today! I was recently promoted to Chief Operations Officer in 2019 and am looking forward to the continued growth Ted’s will see in 2020 and beyond.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I was managing a Las Vegas strip pizza delivery location in the early 1990’s, I had a regular customer named Paul. Paul liked his pizza spicy, and was not afraid to let us know if he felt we cut corners on getting his pizza spicy enough. Being a fan of spicy food myself, I brought a jar of extremely hot sauce I had picked up during a visit to Mexico and added it to Paul’s pizza one evening. It was a pretty inexperienced move, and as it turned out, Paul loved it. However, it wasn’t something the company could reproduce, and because of that mistake, I took away the importance of consistency.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have had a lot of help throughout my career. Narrowing that down to one person would be difficult, but I have always had the mentality that I can learn something from everyone, and I have. From a new dishwasher to assistant managers to first time servers, I look at what each person has to teach me. There are thousands of people that have helped me along the way, and continue to help me learn each day.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
It’s challenging to stand out in the restaurant industry today. The amount of competition that exists has never been higher, and most everyone offers great food options. If not, they don’t make it. Separating your restaurantthrough outstanding guest service is vital to succeeding in the long term. Everyone will tell you about the good food they experience, but how often do you hear compliments or recommendations based on the service a guest receives? Usually, it’s the opposite. Additionally,hiring the right talent that will takeownership in your business is more difficult than it’s ever been. Having word of mouth on your outstanding service is a path to increased sales and profits that is uncommon in today’s labor market. For Ted’s, it’s about being detail aware in every aspect of our operations, as well as stressing the importance of not cutting corners on training and development. That is how we provide a ‘Ted’s Way’ experience to every single guest that crosses our doors.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
An owner or management team is usually bought into ensuring every guest has a great experience. Some of the lower level management is much more challenging in today’s environment than in the past, and we have found that hourly turnover often causes a disconnect on guest service. The old school mentality of working hard and demonstrating a company’s core values and mission has taken a back seat to quality of life. It’s easier than ever for a person to walk across the street and get a restaurant position. Turnover and lack of proper training and development are root causes of the customer service disconnect.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
A restaurant’s food is no longer what stands out for most guests. The amount of choice consumers have has made that even more common place. Outstanding guest service has become the true rarity in the restaurant and retail industries. We’ve found that standing out where the majority of your competition is failing is essential to Ted’s long-term growth.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
‘Ted’s Way’ means wowing every guest that comes into one of our restaurants. Some guests are more discerning than others. We had a guest in one of our locations that preferred his fajitas vegetables cooked for less time than our procedure calls for. After initially being upset and stating he would never return to our restaurants, a simple conversation with him turned him into a twice a week guest for us. In his mind, he wanted us to prepare every order to his liking. When I provided him with the food he was looking for, and educated him on how to order them every time to ensure it was prepared to his personal preference, he was beyond pleased we went as far as we did to satisfy his individual needs. Every guest is important, and we proved that to him.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
As I mentioned, that guest is now a twice a week visitor and regularly tells his friends and family about the amazing customer service Ted’s provides. Although it is food related, it is more about the personalized service this guest feels like he gets every time he comes to Ted’s, and he is proud to show that off and share that experience with others. Our outstanding guest service has created more frequent visits and increased weekly guest counts.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a guest experience focused mission statement that you instill in all of your employees and empower them to provide. Writing something on paper that your staff is not empowered to implement is a waste of time. I have worked for a company that was the perfect example of that in the past.
- Be detail aware in every aspect of your operations. Teaching detail awareness and the importance of it from the beginning allows for fewer mistakes and provides a solid foundation of amazing guest service.
- Invest in the training and development of your team members to provide a wow experience. This is the most overlooked and skipped step in our industry and one that Ted’s capitalizes on. Hiring the right person is a great start, but teaching them about your particular business before letting them serve your guests is vital to providing exceptional guest service.
- Have a written policy or procedure attached to everything that happens in your business. This will provide a great tool to enhance your training, ensure consistency with every visit and assist in the “wow” experience you want for every guest.
- Be a great listener. More times than not, customers and employees are just looking to be heard. Talk less, listen more.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Social media and online reputation scores are one of the biggest guest count drivers to your business today. Have an internal system in place that provides your guests a platform to share their customer service experience to your online outlets. Also, provide a way for them to share a negative experience with your management team before they share it online.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Talk to businesses more than you type at businesses. Share positive experiences as much as you do negative experiences. Be a part of a solution.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!