Build an authentic customer experience. Customers know when you aren’t being true to who you are, so we encourage positive interactions but not scripted ones. We want employees to interact with customers with their own voice and an understanding of the Chronic Tacos culture.
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 Mike Mohammed & Randy Wyner.
Michael Mohammed is the Chief Executive Officer and President at Chronic Tacos Enterprises, Inc., where he oversees the strategic vision of the fast casual Mexican restaurant brand. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Michael attended Saint Martin’s University in Washington State, where he earned a Bachelors of Business Administration and a Masters of Business Administration. Michael and his three brothers first became affiliated with Chronic Tacos in 2010 when they helped finance the chain’s expansion into Canada. After seeing the potential that the brand had for growth, they decided to take over the entire franchise in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. Michael is involved with every aspect of its vision, brand, and strategy. He brings a wealth of experience and an entrepreneurial spirit to his position at the company, having worked previously as a Financial analyst at Boeing and then in sales for their family business Cattermole Group before becoming President in 2004 focusing the company on Investment and Real Estate projects. He is also a member of both the California Restaurant Association and the International Franchise Association.
Randy Wyner is the founder of Chronic Tacos, the Southern California chain of fast-casual Mexican food restaurants. Born and raised in Orange County, Randy draws his inspiration from the distinct Californian food culture. Randy grew up on authentic Mexican food and signature SoCal taquerias. It was his belief that the tastiest taquerias tended to be small, family-owned shops that led him to open his first Taco shop using third generation family recipes he acquired from a close family friend. When Randy was struck with the idea of made-to-order Mexican food that was both fast and fresh, Chronic Tacos was born.
Giving back to the community is important to Randy. Together with Chronic Tacos CEO Michael Mohammed and the entire Chronic Tacos team, they support nonprofits such as the Eco-Warrior Foundation where they participate in four beach clean-ups a year and provide free food to the volunteers. Randy is also a resident of Laguna Beach and is currently working on a Chronic Tacos partnership with SchoolPower, a program that works with and benefits Laguna Beach schools.
When Randy’s not at Chronic Tacos, he enjoys exploring new food and taking in the southern California scene whether at the beach, at a live music show or participating in local community events. He also loves attending beach events with his children and grandson.
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?
I grew up in Orange County, CA where there was a taqueria on every corner. I loved the food but there was something missing. I knew then there was a need for a taco shop with authentic recipes and a super laidback, SoCal vibe that would attract people. The Taco Life started then in 2002, and we have built our taco shops inspired by 3rd generation recipes, a laidback experience, and personal SoCal service. — Randy Wyner (Founder)
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?
I think it’s funny how much I underestimated in general the time and effort it would take through this process. When we first started, we had no idea how to build a restaurant, we didn’t hire an architect, or any professionals…we just thought we would slap some paint on and throw in a grill. We quickly learned the importance of having a good plan and reliable people helping along the way. — Randy Wyner (Founder)
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?
For both of us, it’s each other. We are very different personalities and have different skillsets, so we are able to see things from different perspectives. We are open-minded to each other’s view on things and encourage the development of certain ideas. Because we approach things differently, it becomes a collaboration that allows us to come to the best decisions.
We both have also had mentors throughout our careers, and before working together. Mine would be my father, and I know Randy’s, is John Galardi, the founder of Weinerschnitzel.
– Mike Mohammed (CEO)
In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
My biggest thing was always, and still is seeing people eat our food and be happy and say how good it is. It’s an experience and we want our customers want to leave there in a better mood and better place than where they began. This really comes from Randy’s love for customers and how he developed the customer service within the brand. He’s always looked at it like if someone comes in and isn’t in a great mood or maybe didn’t have the best day, what can we do just to elevate that enough? We know they are going to enjoy the food but what can we do to kind of uplift that person that day? The food speaks for itself and we pride ourselves on its authenticity, but that authenticity needs to come through the experience as well. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
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?
People and businesses get so caught up in the efficiencies of things that they almost forget there are real people involved and they need to take time to interact with them…that’s the disconnect. We’re getting to a point where personal touch is becoming an anomaly, and even customers’ expectations have been lowered to a point where many businesses are able to get away with a poor customer service experience. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
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?
Yes. Competition should improve customer service experience, but it doesn’t necessarily do so. What is happening is that there is an opportunity to create a better customer experience because it is becoming more and more rare to have that hands on, authentic customer interaction.
Theoretically, yes there are external pressures, because you have all these review sites that give you some insight to what customers are experiencing, and companies can interact with them on these platforms; however, there is a real miss with high touch communication and being able to talk to a real person. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
I know what comes to mind first for me is actually about Randy and how he interacts with customers. He will hear about or see a negative review on social media and straight up call that person directly and apologize to them on behalf of himself and the brand. People are always taken aback when they realize Randy himself took the time to call them, but it means the world to them and that’s why Randy does it. Having authentic relationships with his customers is and always will be the core of the Chronic Tacos Brand. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Definitely. Through these interactions, we are able to take people that probably weren’t going to come back, and create loyal, life-long customers. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. It starts with employees knowing the importance of customer service. There needs to be a culture of putting the customer first. Like the story we shared previously, we empower our employees to always strive to make each customers’ day a little bit better than when they came in.
2. Build an authentic customer experience. Customers know when you aren’t being true to who you are, so we encourage positive interactions but not scripted ones. We want employees to interact with customers with their own voice and an understanding of the Chronic Tacos culture.
3. Reply to all customers inquiries/reviews whether good or bad. Customers want to know they have been heard and they want to be appreciated, so this is key. We strive to respond to all reviews within 24 hours, so our customers know we value them and their feedback.
4. Be clear on your brand principles. For example, our principles are TACOS.
Teamwork: Collaborate. We work hard and have fun as a team.
Accountability: We do what we say, always with integrity.
Creativity: We will think outside the box for solutions that get results.
Optimism: Passion for the brand and where we are going.
Service Oriented: To our franchisees, our customers and each other.
5. Most importantly, you don’t have a business without customers. This is just a fact.
– Mike Mohammed (CEO)
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?
Consistency is key. Maintaining a consistent customer service experience is going to create loyal customers and shared experiences. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
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.
In the world we are living in, we would spread a movement of being nice and consistently trying to understand each other. Simple as that. — Mike Mohammed (CEO)
How can readers follow you on social media?
You can find us actively on social media @chronictacos. Be sure to check out our new Tik Tok page as well! — Randy Wyner (Founder)