Harnessing Complaints & Branded Products: Getting ahead of the restaurant game

The southeast United States is full of rich culture, history, and especially food. The amount of deep fried fantasy turned reality left by waist line pushing my pants to their limit. I can’t describe food all that well, but when it comes to the business of restaurants I know what I’m talking about. Hyman’s Seafood, although I felt the food average, they had a remarkable brand strategy that catapults them to success in a highly competitive market.

Beginning with the first impression, Hyman’s quoted a long wait time. It was shorter than we had anticipated, so we decided to wait. They called us to our table in less than half the quoted time. Under promising and over delivering started us off on the right foot. All the way through the dining area, on the walls, and the tables are famous and well known people who had eaten at the restaurant. Everywhere you turned there was a name dropped. What better way to make you feel as though you’re somewhere exclusive?

Our waitress introduced herself, gave us our menus, and got a drink order. Before she left, she mentioned that if we had anything at all to say about our dining experience to let her know. I thought ‘that’s nice to welcome feedback’ and moved on. We had multiple coupons given to us from various other locations giving us free appetizers or dessert. This is a great and affordable way to generate traffic and get people to come eat.

Seconds later, the new manager introduces himself to our table. He had a cheerful disposition and gave us some recommendations on what he liked best on the menu. Then, he told us if there was anything wrong in any way with any of our food, he would like to know and they would fix it. Ok, so the second prompt for feedback is something I haven’t experienced before. The manager left, the waitress returned with our drinks and we told her we needed more time. At that point, the fam starting saying how great the restaurant was and how great the food will be. Nothing had been set in front of us accept a menu and some water, and the compliments already started to flow.

Another man approached our table and gave us a load of stickers. He said if we have these on our person while out in Charleston, there are Hyman’s employees out looking for them. If they see you, they will give you free gift cards or something. Again, a small discount to bring in more bodies to your eatery is a worthwhile investment. After his spiel, he encouraged us to let him or the wait staff know if there was any complaints about anything we ordered.

We hashed out what we all wanted to order and let our waitress know what we wanted. After she left, we noticed the owner come into our dining room. It was easy to recognize him because there’s a large picture of his face and a description of the lineage of owners dating back generations on the front page of the menu. He approached our table and engaged us in a conversation about his place as well as some of the celebrity name drops we had questions about. Before he left, he was sure to emphasize that he wanted to know if there was anything wrong with any of our orders. He said they don’t mind, there’s no reason to have anything you don’t enjoy, and they really care about what we thought. Feedback is extremely important, equally as important as acting upon that feedback. Hyman’s drove that home to every guest. They were practically begging us to tell them what they thought.

After our meal, there was a complaint that was brought to the manager’s attention. He acknowledged it, and after investigation returned to inform us that it was totally just. I refuse to complain about my food in the restaurant, but the constant prompts brought those around me up to the point of comfortability to complain.

With our meal was a free magnet we could pick up when we exit through the gift shop. Gifting is a fantastic policy. I don’t believe in gifting for the sake of getting something in return at some future date (which is likely the motive). However, a gift is sacred and appreciated in all walks of life. It was great to receive one. My girlfriend wanted two (one couldn’t be split among two households). The clerk complied without hesitation. She said never would she ever turn someone down who wanted an additional magnet. Every step of the way the customer experience in Hyman’s is structured to make you feel good about being there.

The last topic I’ll touch upon is the salt scrub. In the bathrooms they offer a salt and oil mixture to moisturize and make your hands smell good. The gift shop has branded t-shirts and mugs as well as hats and whatnot. Then, they have an entire room dedicated to the salt scrubs. A line of sink and sample testers dominate the center of the room, and each of many different fragrances line the walls. You’re introduced to something you didn’t know you liked then presented with the opportunity to have your favorite flavor of your own.

I would not say that I was blown away by the food I received at Hyman’s. Nor would I say that the service was phenomenal. I will say that they have everything in place to succeed in the highly dense restaurant world of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s really a lesson in internal procedures, culture, and continuous process improvement. Everyone had a cheerful disposition (attitude is everything, as they say on their nametags), and we were all they seemed to really care about. So, although I wasn’t amazed by the exquisite presentation or savory taste of fresh seafood, and our wait staff didn’t balance thirty plates on their head while refilling our Coke, we all walked away feeling as though we had been given a positive dining experience. What aspects can you take from Hyman’s to make your business run better? Tell me in the comments!

Photo Credit: Logopedia, TripAdvisor, American Cuisine