Archive for September, 2013


Posted September 24, 2013 By tjflynn

I never give 5 stars. But I would if I were asked. At that place. At that time. Given the concept and operating parameters. The only thing missing was the odor of apple pies and the voices of angels.

I had a great experience in the Metrowest Five Guys restaurant and told my friends ‘Director’, ‘Managing’ and ‘Operating’ the good news. The place was clean. The people were super friendly. The food was good. The fries were fresh and done just right. The condiment and drink areas were tidy and organized. The restroom was clean. I was excited and proud to be a consultant for the franchise. Hell, I was happy to be a customer.

I suspect that it was a fluke. Some karmic reward for something good I did in a past life. It was a gift for my blog on SERVICE. I know that. That excitement lasted for days until I realized that, (1) nobody but me cared, or (2) somebody cared, but not enough to share it with me.

Euphoria to depression in 3 easy moves, anyone?

Yes, I manage construction for a local Five Guys Franchisee. Yes, I managed construction on today’s subject. Yes, I spend a lot of time in Five Guys’ restaurants. Yes, I have more than one vested interest in the success of Five Guys in Central Florida. Yes, I often eat for free in the restaurants that I build.

However, I suppose that I’m just the “construction turd” to the operators. My random comments (good or bad) on operations are taken more like a dose of salts than as constructive observations. Instead of hearing an old salt’s pearls of wisdom-they hear an old fart’s musings. Rather than taking them with a grain of salt-they act like salt is being rubbed into a festered wound.

I’m reminded of my years in retail real estate development companies where there was always a chasm between the “real estate turds” and the “construction turds”. The real estate guys thought that the construction guys just sat around and made up reasons not to do projects and blamed them on some state or local jurisdictional authority. The construction guys thought that the real estate guys were too busy getting manicures and buying $1,200 suits (that remark will indicate my age) to find the right site and the right tenants for it.

Company parties were like middle school dances. Those with spit-polished John Lobb’s on their feet and Mercedes under their seat sitting on one side, and those who had on Timberlands that would never even get close to polish thinking about the valet looking for low-low and trying to climb an 85 degree berm as a short-cut to the parking garage.

The only thing that I find different about restaurant development is that a 3rd group of people with their own idiosyncrasies, are thrown into the mix…”operations turds”. Company parties are exactly the same. Shiny shoes on one side of the room. Scuffed on the other. Wherever the food and drinks are…you got it…the non-slip sole crowd.

I’ve spent my entire career trying to erase the unmistakeable aura that says, “I started out as a carpenter”. I got my first real estate license in 1974 and my first building contractor’s license in 1980. My closet has both shiny and scuffed footwear. At parties, I seamlessly drift between real estate and construction turdoms with ease and deftness. I don’t like admitting it, but I just can’t seem to break into the operators’ group. I don’t speak their language. I don’t know what temperature is required to magically transform white lardy Crisco into a clear liquid.

I have been involved in over a hundred restaurant openings. I have my very own ServeSafe card. My knowledge of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation / Division of Hotels and Restaurant pre-opening checklist is, well, nudging absolute.

But, I can’t:
1. Consume my own weight in any given food category.
2. Make a gourmet meal with nothing but a toothpick and a candle.
3. Drink beer, wine and hard alcohol until the wee hours and find an all-night restaurant around 4:30 am for ‘pre breakfast snacks’.
4. Go to the same building to work everyday (THE SAME PLACE EVERYDAY for goodness’ sake)

And, I am not skinny by any means, but I am not hefty enough to be in operations. Have you ever seen a skinny operator? Those odds are the same as finding an honest used car salesman or a good lawyer.

I’m too emotionally drained at this point to make a point about today’s blog. I experienced that one moment in time when all the tumblers dropped into place, when the stage was perfectly set, when there was no other possible outcome than a wonderful service experience.

I had it.

It was at a restaurant that I built.

I know the people who are responsible.

It was beautiful.

Perhaps you, my faithful readers, will share in my excitement. I can only wish that you, too, experience that pristine excitement of pure and unadulterated Superior Service that some of us aspire to and all of us seek.

Pizza Hut Would Not Take US Currency

Posted September 11, 2013 By tjflynn

Quick internet research reveals that Pizza Hut’s average ticket price is between 17 and 50 bucks. How come, then, the unit in Altamonte Springs will not take a hundred dollar bill for payment?

I am experiencing new-found energy and weight loss from a diet that excludes pizza-of any kind. However, I backslide once in a while. Yes, readers, I am human. I do have some of the normal frailties of the species. So, a few days ago when my mother suggested it, I found myself in the Altamonte Springs Pizza Hut ordering a large Pepperoni Pan Pizza to take out. Everything about the experience was the universe’s unique way of telling me…don’t do it, numbskull!

1. It was early in the afternoon but I thought I’d rather warm up the pizza than go home and back out later.
2. As I turned off of 436 onto Boston, there was a line of cars in the turn lane which blocked my access into the parking lot as well as impatient people behind me who would have been safer without the rear of their cars hanging half out onto the busy highway.
3. Once I did get into the parking lot, all of the convenient parking spaces were taken or side-parked. This is when one car takes up more than one parking space by parking sidewards.
4. Without enough thought, I wheeled into a compact car space and side-parked my own vehicle which would more precisely be called a “land yacht” than a “compact”.
5. As I disembarked, the seat cover stuck to my britches and jumped out with me and the seatbelt wrapped around the little thingie that holds the door shut so when I slammed the door, it bounced back at me as if to say, “move the damn seatbelt, Herky-Jerky”.
6. As I made towards the door, a lady was walking in the same direction, so I had the usual mental battle (ie. hurry up to be first to the door then hold it for her and let her get in front of me, go in first and ignore her, hold the door and trip her or let her get to the door first and have the dilemma. Thankfully, she went in the shop next door.
7. Finally, I’m safe and cool inside the restaurant where the over-worked and under-paid Mensa reject was more interested in the technician working on a ladder near the counter than acknowledging a customer standing at the counter.
8. When he finally did make eye contact for a split second before looking at the cash register, I asked, “can I order a large pepperoni pan pizza” and he responded, “did you order online?” At this point, my brain raced for a response that was nothing like, “if I ordered it online, I would not ask to order it again here, would I?” But all that came out of my mouth was a weak “no”. So when he asked what crust, my mind raced again for a response that was not, “what part of large pepperoni pan pizza do you not understand?” And, all that came out of my mouth that time was a weak “pan”.
9. Up to this point, it was a pretty normal experience at any service-related business in Central Florida. Where the training manuals emphasize get-em-in and get-em-out over offering any semblance of service. There will be a new tourist there before you know it.
10. But when I reached out with cash, the fellow that later identified himself as “one of the managers” curtly and loudly retorted, “we don’t take hundreds.”

If you know me, you can guess what happened next. I asked to see a manager then walked out mumbling and in a snit. Or was it a huff?

Most of this incident is funny. It usually is when the universe talks to you and you just don’t listen. But the service, or lack thereof, ain’t funny at all. It’s pitiful.

Horse-whipping purveyors of poor service should never have been re-classified from a deterrent to an act of violence. I would be willing to take my punishment if I treated someone as I was treated at the Pizza Hut in Altamonte Springs. Is a little personal responsibility too much to ask?

What’s the service principle here? If you don’t plan on providing superior service to your customers, please don’t take a service job.