#8: 6 New Customer Experience & Company Culture Strategies I’m Using for Brasa Peruvian Kitchen (Join Me!)

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Hello, everyone. Welcome it to The People-First Culture podcast. This is episode number eight and I’m Michel Falcon. This is a solo episode. I’m going to be sharing the company culture, employee engagement, and customer experience tactics and strategies that I’m going to be using for my new business Brasa Peruvian Kitchen. If you haven’t listened to some other episodes, by all means, go search. See what might make sense to you, have a listen, subscribe to the podcast and leave a review while you’re there if you like any of the lessons that we share. That would mean the world to me. And you could also go to michelfalcon.com and join 20,000 other professionals, just like you, who get an email from me once a week. No spam. It’s just education regarding culture, customers and employees. So go ahead and head over to michelfalcon.com.

I’m in Ontario, and that things are starting to get a little bit better regarding COVID, which means my speaking career may get back to normal sometimes soon-ish. I share that with you, because if you’re looking for a keynote speaker for your event, whether it’s in-person or virtual, you can also go to michelfalcon.com and check that out. In my keynotes, I will be sharing a lot of the strategies that I’m going to be talking to you about today. I’m excited for this. I’m excited to share this with you because with this new business, I’m not bringing anything with me from the past. And what I mean by that is any strategy I have used, whether it’s worked or not in my career, I’ve actually retired, I’ve hung up the jersey, if you will.

If you’ve read my book, People-First Culture, those strategies are for you to use and to share. I am moving on to these ones that I’m going to share with you today. The business I’m building, it’s @BrasaPeruvian on Instagram. It’s a fast casual restaurant. My business partners and I own and managed full service restaurants. So those are ones where you will sit down for an hour and a half to two hours and enjoy some wine and be served. Fast casual is more like nearer Breads or Chipotle play where it’s you pretty much grab it and go. You may sit for maybe 20 minutes, 30 minutes. And our concept is salads and bowls with real Peruvian flavors. These strategies that I’m going to share with you, I believe are ones that you could start using yourself. Maybe not all at once. Maybe if there’s one that really resonates with you, start with that.

If you’re a small business, you know, that you can move quickly and implement things overnight really. If you’re a medium or large size company, deploying the strategies across the entire system will prove to be challenging. So what I recommend is if you’re a leader of a department, why not try a strategy or two within your department first? If it’s successful, then share them with your neighboring colleagues and that’s how you’re able to scale strategies within larger companies so that it’s not extraordinarily disruptive and you’re not held back by a bureaucratic reasons perhaps. So let’s get into strategy number one. Fast casual restaurants are extremely hard to recruit for right now. They always have been and they’ve been really buckled by high employee turnover, but high employee turnover isn’t specific to industry.

It’s just a nature of how you approach the challenge. So this is one thing that I know I’m going to have to build systems and processes around to be able to bring our employee retention up. And one of the first things that I am doing is I am getting rid of the probationary period. The probationary period is put in place to protect companies so that you can fire an employee without costs. Now that may be advantageous for the company and the person that is doing the hiring, but what is that make the employee feel like? They are not welcomed into a team for at least three months. Let me relate this to the relationship that I have with my fiance, or maybe you have with a loved one. What would it be like if I, on the first or second date, I sat down with Sophia and said, I like you, but I don’t know. Give me three months to get back.

That’s essentially what we’re saying to our employees when we put them on a probationary period. So I’m getting rid of that probationary period. Our employees benefits and wages start on day one so that they can be embraced as part of the team. Consider something like this because not only will it help you embrace a new team member and make them feel that they’re part of the culture, it’s going to stand out on your job description. And as you’re fighting for talent in competitive industries, you need to ensure that you’re standing out. And one of the best ways to do so is by including things in your job descriptions that warrant attention. Another thing that we’re doing in regards to the interview process, and it helped the culture, is I’m doing something called the reverse reference. We aren’t hiring with resumes. Our interview strategy consists of a peculiar job description. It’s different than any other job description perhaps you’ve seen. And then it leads to an application process where we ask seven questions and the application will likely take no longer than five minutes.

The reason I wanted to reinvent that is because putting together a resume and a CV, they’re painful. They’re not enjoyable. The things that the candidate has to do to prepare for applying for a job. So instead let me get rid of that, let’s get the candidate focused on having a conversation that will tell me everything that the resume is going to tell me anyways. Not to mention, sifting through resumes can be extraordinarily boring. At least to me, they can be. So the reverse reference for [inaudible 00:07:45] are often we are asking our candidates to put forth references. One is that, when I speak to many professionals most people don’t even call them. And who’s going to put forth a bad reference?

So instead, what I’m doing is if you’re going to join the team, your prospective manager, who will be included in the interview process is actually going to give you a reference to call. This is someone that they’ve worked with in the past recently. And this reference that you were going to speak to, who will share what it is like to work with this perspective manager is going to talk about three things. The first thing is how to build their trust quickly to achieve autonomy. The second is what is exciting about working with this individual? And the third is what are the unbecoming qualities that they are currently working on? For example, Jordan Lopez is my reverse reference person and I hired a general manager and I put them two in touch.

And I told Jordan, I said, I don’t care to know what you guys talk about. And I said that to Miguel or Joel, the manager also, and I don’t care to know what you talk about, but Jordan, please tell Miguel these three things and speak candidly. And I can only imagine that Jordan, me being pretty self-aware about my behaviors, I can only imagine that Jordan May have said something like he’s very impatient and he wants to move really quickly. He may have said, and I’ve shared this openly, when I get frustrated, I can speak in a condescending fashion to people. It is very unbecoming. I don’t mean to do it, but I’m working on eradicating that for myself. I can tell you firsthand now, based on the feedback that I’ve gotten is like, that’s different. And now Miguel has a decision to make. Do you want to work with this person or not?

Let’s lay it out all on the table. Now, very similar to dating. Tell me, show me your words. Like tell me what your bad behaviors are so I can make an educated decision on whether I want to have this relationship with you or not. So the reverse reference, it’s working for me and it’s different, it’s fun. It really sends a loud message to your candidates like we do things differently here. Actually. Another thing that what I’m looking at is giving up budget. I’m not looking at part of me, I’ve deployed this. Each team member is going to receive a budget and the budget is $300 a month. And our forecasting and budgeting, this is a line item on our P&L. When a team member joins, the $300 budget can be used for things like benefits, which here in Canada is about 75 to 100 dollars a month for pretty comprehensive benefit program.

So that leaves the candidate with $200 every month to be able to use for coaches. So what I’ve done is created something I’m calling the Brasa Masterclass. I’ve reached out to a dozen friends of mine who are experts in their field and I put their profiles on an online portal where a team member at any day, any time of day could go on this website and book a call directly with one of these experts. For example, let’s say Reese Green, a friend of mine is our expert in house. Our in-house expert for leadership. Well, Miguel can go and book a call with a few clicks of a couple buttons and book a call with Reese and we’ll compensate Reese for his time. And each individual will have their hourly rate. So each expert will have their hourly rate. And then we just document and make sure that the expert is paid and facilitate the conversation.

Now, I don’t care if it is something related to their profession or personal life. Or perhaps we’ll have a team member who is a mother or father that wants to get tutoring for their son or daughter. Well, we’ll connect them with my friend Sonny Burma’s company Tutorite. Or maybe somebody wants to get into better shape. Well, our in-house expert there’s Kelsey Rose. The list goes on and on, and we’re going to start with 12 extras, but that might grow to be a couple over a few dozen experts, really depending on the demand of the employee. If the employee wants to be more organized, maybe we have an organizational expert. If the team ever wants to have a better memory, maybe we reach out to a memory expert. So the possibilities really are endless. And we haven’t officially deployed that yet because I’m still building the interfaces so that the employee can go book with the experts.

So that’s going to take a little time to build, but I’m very confident about this. I’ve never seen a company do this before, and it’s advantageous that I have a larger network with experts that I can introduce to our team members so that they grow. Another employee side tactic that I’m doing is no bonuses or tips. So in a coffee shop or a restaurant, you have the tip option for a customer. And that’s what some employers rely on to be able to compensate their employees. So they may pay the close to minimum wage and then rely on tips to be able to pay them a couple dollars extra per hour. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pass that along to our customers. And after reading Netflix recent book, No Rules Rules. It’s actually coauthored by the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings.

I started thinking differently about bonuses. Now, you may know bonus programs from a quarterly or yearly basis. And I’ve seen many bonus programs, but I’ve also seen many people not be happy with their bonus programs, not just on the company side, but on the employee side as well. So when I did our forecasting and our budgeting for the business, I thought to myself, what can we do differently here to be able to give our employees more security so that they can secure their livelihoods? So what we did is we’re going to forego bonuses. Instead, we’re going to assume that the individual is talented enough and caters above their performance that they’re just going to hit their goals anyways. So instead of budgeting, if or if not that they’re going to hit their bonus, whatever that might be, we’re just going to pay them. Now, if they don’t hit their goals, well, we have a problem. We’re likely going to need to off-board them because we’re paying a wage that’s above industry average.

Our wage starts, it starts at $16. In Ontario, the minimum wage is 14.25. And so we’re going well above that. But with the bonuses, I like this idea. When we did our budgeting, we actually theoretical, showed that our labor percentage was going to be less than if we didn’t do something like this. It goes to mention also that to be able to help the employees have a life outside of work, we are going to be implementing four-day work weeks at 10 hours per shift. And the initial feedback has been very positive. There have been some individuals that have declined working with us because that doesn’t suit their schedule, which is fine. And today is July 16th, 2021. And the reason I’m sharing that with you is because whenever you’re listening to this, as of right now, the reverse reference, the budget, the no probationary period and this bonus tip off are… I’m sorry. The, the idea around not having bonuses have been deployed and they have been successful so far. The program that I’ve yet to launch is the budget each employee will have to be able to book a call with an expert.

Depending on when you’re listening to this, it may have already been deployed. Feel free to email me it’s m@brasaperuvian.com and I can tell the results of that program, but so far everything that I’ve deployed and mentioned right now on this podcast has been going extremely well. And I’ll continue to monitor the results and share them with you. So what about the customer? What about customer experience initiatives? I have been known to be heavily weighted toward the employee, and that’s not to say that I don’t believe in customer experience and treating them well. Of course I do. That’s part of my personal brand, but I believe that the employee needs more attention to be able to deliver an experience that your customers have never seen before. In my world, our customers want a flavorful food that is fast at a reasonable price.

But when I did market research and hosted customer surveys and spoke to people, many people about what you want from a food grant, that’s what I kept hearing. Right? All the bells, the whistles that come along with customer experience, they’re very much nice to haves. At the end of the day, I’m in the food business, I’m in the product business, just like you. Our customers just want our products to work as advertised, right? No creating wow customer experiences however you need to find that are nice to have, so not must haves. Your product at the end of the day, it needs to work. And in our case, working means flavor. And it means fast to our customers. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t create some unique customer experience systems. Here’s one that you likely have never seen before in the food space. Picture you have a bowl and we serve salads in warm bowls, you have a bowl and likely on that bowl, you have a plastic lid or a compostable lid and it see-through so you can see the colors of the food.

What we are going to do is we’re going to put a QR code about the size of a hockey puck. And this hockey puck size sicker rather will have a QR code on it. And it’s going to have some very strong language on that sticker above the QR code. And it’s going to say, we’re desperate for your feedback. It will only take one minute. Because of the pandemic, customers are more inclined to scan a QR code. They’re familiar with how to do so. So the customer is going to scan the QR code. And from there, it’s going to take them seamlessly, quickly. It’s going to take them to the net promoter score question. If you’re not familiar with net promoter score, just do a quick YouTube search of it. You can watch a two-minute video and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, but essentially it asks, are you likely to recommend our company to a friend or a family member?

And it rates you from zero to 10. If somebody rates nine or 10, then we’re automatically going to send them to another landing page very seamlessly. This takes no time at all. It takes seconds. Take them to another landing page to understand why they rated us a nine or 10 so that I can take that back to our team and show them like hey, this is why our customers love us. Keep going, keep doing it. Now, if the customer rates us zero to six, we are going to do something that customers have never seen before. Again, we’re going to ask them why, so that we can gather that customer intelligence. And then immediately after that, we’re going to give the customer an option. There’s three options through a multiple choice kind of format. And it’s going to say, how can we make this right?

Here are three options. The first option will be reimburse me. The second option will say give me a gift certificate to your restaurant to try again. It’ll be like a $20 gift certificate and enough to purchase a meal. And the third option which you’ve never seen before is it give me a gift certificate to another restaurant? So every month we’re going to buy a $20 gift certificates from neighboring restaurants who sell similar food, salads in bowls. And regardless of the three options, once the customer clicks the option they want and clicks in, I automatically get an email in my inbox and that’s going to tell me how they want to be compensated. And I will do the outreach to our customers. Perhaps that’s going to grow where we have a customer experience team that might own that on my behalf, but for the beginning, and again, today’s July 16th, we are deploying this and I’m really confident about it. It’s different. I love looking at challenges and being like how can we solve this? Because customer retention is everything.

And when have you ever been given that option in a restaurant, right? More often than not, you don’t want your customers dining out of their restaurants or other businesses. I’m okay. There’s enough customers to go around. There’s enough restaurants. And I think we should be contributing to our industries rather than trying to deteriorate them. So that’s something I’m looking forward to. I haven’t deployed it just yet. That’s actually deploying next week and I’m excited to hear everyone’s feedback. And lastly, have you ever called an 800 number for a restaurant? Maybe you called to book a reservation. Maybe you called to complain, but what about things outside of that? This is something I haven’t conceptualized yet, but it likely will take me six to 12 months to do so.

But in the name of customer retention and customer experience, how cool would it be to visit a company’s website or even their Instagram, and look at their bio and see that they have an 800 number to call. And you call them for a myriad of different reasons. Perhaps a customer might call in to say, what’s in the potatoes? I love your potatoes. I want to cook them at home. No problem. Here’s what’s in the potatoes. Or a tablespoon of this, a half tablespoon of that, or what’s your email? I’ll send it to. A customer might call in and say, Hey, I’m in a new city, where’s your nearest restaurant? All right, let’s find one for you. Another reason might be to complain, to give us praise. But what about if, our brand is Peruvian flavors, what if we build such strong rapport with our customers that influenced them to travel to Peru because they love the flavors, they love our brand and how we educate them about the country and the culture and the music, the art that it motivated them to finally book that trip to Peru?

What if they called in our customers called in and we acted like travel agents for them? Not necessarily booking the flights and the hotels for them, but gave them recommendations like the top five restaurants to eat at Lima, the best tour guides in the country. I think that would be really cool. It would be expensive, yes. Because you would have to operate this call center with humans, right? I know you could likely automate a lot of these things. You could also probably build an app that had a robust library to be able to answer your customer’s questions, something that I will look into also, but there’s something to be said about calling still.

I know that I called the Air Canada just the other day and I was blown away by the employee. And I was reminded that these human interactions still matter. How much do we want to automate? I don’t know. So everyone, that is episode number eight and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. There’s a lot of moving parts and it has me having to be focused and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say there are times where I’ve had to manage stress, but that stress goes away once I get recalibrated, refocused and aligned with the strategy and needs to be built to get things done. So I’m Michel Falcon. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast and don’t forget to subscribe to it because I’m coming every week with a new episode for you. Visit michelfalcon.com. Check out my book, People-First culture on Amazon and I will see you next time.

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company culture Customer Experience Podcasts