Imagine going to a restaurant and being greeted by a robot rather than a smiling, well-dressed and helpful steward. While tech-enables features may sound fascinating to some, communicating and placing an order to a robot that will respond with auto recorded replies might not go down well with everyone. Especially in customer-facing businesses such as food service, where ‘service’ is the key maker-or-breaker.
Retail, as they say, is a people’s business. And nowhere more than in the food service sector, where human resource is typically as important as menu differentiation.
“For a food service business, the biggest part is the final experience a customer gets via two things: the kind of interaction he has at the cafe/restaurant and the kind of product he finally gets,” says Co-founder of fast-growing tea cafe chain Chaayos, Raghav Verma.
“Now, in order to deliver this awesome customer experience, the team should be three things: happy, well supported and capable,” he adds. Verma should know what he is talking about. Chaayos was honoured earlier in the year at the Coca Cola Golden Spoon Awards 2016 with the ‘Most Admired Food Service Retailer of the Year: Human Resource Policies & Initiatives’ recognition.
As per Verma, the achievement of these three aspects at Chaayos is ensured through a 15-day ‘in-cafe’ training schedule. “Whosoever joins us, either at the headquarter level or at the cafe level, has to first undergo a 15-day in-cafe training to understand the nature of our business and what do we do to ensure happy customers. This on-the-job training plays an important role in equipping them to face day to day challenges at work,” he explains.
On-the-job training is an integral part of human resource management for the food service industry, where customers demands and needs are varied and thus staff should be especially adept at handling disparate customer demands at a time.
Mumbai-headquartered QSR chain Natural Ice Cream also conducts continuous training programmes with industry experts and consultants. The company conducts these programmes in vernacular languages across its 120 outlets in 25 cities to encourage free communication and discussion.
Along with the training and learning, HR initiatives also entail focusing on prepping employees up to carry on assigned tasks. The employees should feel motivated all the time to align with the vision and values of the organisation and thus rewards and recognition come into play.
“We have created a differentiated, unique and aspirational working culture through an open, egalitarian and fun way of working,” Verma states. “We undertake several rewards programmes across cafes for our 400 employees every year. Along with this, we conduct monthly get-togethers at which employees can freely talk and discuss any issues related to their professional aspirations. For instance, if an employee at an outlet level needs support from marketing or operation teams or vice versa, he/she can talk it out at such meetings.”
In the last financial year, Chaayos also launched multiple new employee-friendly initiatives, including Flexihours, making the office pet-friendly and instituting a football team, a cricket team, and a Chaayos music band to break the ice between employees, he informs.
Leading frozen dessert chain Baskin Robbins has designed its HR motto around an ’employee delight = customer delight’ principle. The company holds rewards and recognition ceremonies every quarter for employees, and has also initiated a ‘Santa Wish’ programme to fulfill their career-enhancing aspirations.
Kolkata-based QSR chain Wow! Momo also works effectively to keep its employees going. “We launched a ‘Wow! Champ’ initiative aimed at rewarding employees and enhancing retention. In June last year, when we raised the first round of equity funding, we decided to recognise the efforts of the senior employees at all levels,” explains CEO of Wow! Momo, Sagar Daryani.
“We incentivise them through an unexpected one-time bonus Increment of 25 per cent to each deserving ‘Wow! Champ’ irrespective of the fact as to when they got their last increment. This is over and above the annual increment which employees get every year on appraisal,” he adds.