8th Dec 2016
The Restaurant Group (TRG) has admitted that poor customer service and a failure to understand what customers want contributed to its decision to close 33 restaurants.
The move by TRG, which runs more than 500 restaurants throughout the UK including the Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Garfunkel’s chains, came after it reported falling sales and profits.
The company blamed its struggles on unpopular new menus, higher prices and poor customer service, and vowed to listen more to its customers in the future.
Former chief executive Danny Breithaupt, who left TRG earlier this year due to shareholder unhappiness over the Group’s performance, had blamed Frankie and Benny’s worsening performance on increased competition, but the company’s new chair, Debbie Hewitt – who took over from Alan Jackson in March – said TRG’s poor performance “has been of our own making”.
“It’s been a business that’s been run very instinctively… But customers will tell you ‘it’s too expensive, we are not as keen on the menu and service is inconsistent’,” she said.
Hewitt said prices had been pushed up too high in the past three years and that fixed-price lunches and many popular dishes had been taken off menus when new ones were introduced without being trialled first. For example, chicken parmigiana made way for chicken saltimbocca, which proved less popular and is also more complex to make, resulting in longer waiting times.
She has urged TRG to take swift action to appeal more to families – Frankie and Benny’s main customers – by testing new value offers and putting popular dishes back on the menu. The company has already committed to investing around £6 million into new technology to update “antiquated” tills and ordering and operating systems.
Listening to customers has always been key to delivering excellent customer service, and The Institute of Customer Service’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) found that the highest-performing organisations recognise the importance of gaining a deep understanding of their customers’ evolving needs and preferences. As TRG has found out to its cost, understanding these evolving needs requires businesses make a continuous effort to understand what customers want.