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One of the consequences of stress is that it makes it much harder to achieve some of the things that would make our lives a little less stressful or at least more productive.

The Hospitality Industry is stressful because it represents a complex process that involves sales and marketing, multiple production elements, service, fulfilment and hospitality all within a short time frame and with every customer. Retail is different, not every customer buys, and there isn’t usually production involved; it’s a simpler system.

Unfortunately for us, the less complex process in Retail allows the industry to totally outshine our industry when it comes to capturing contact details … and they don’t even have to be amazing at it, because over-all we are totally leaving that basic marketing tool in the ‘too hard tool box’.

Marketing is all about creating a relationship with the customer; preferably a long one, and it’s absolutely critical on so many levels. Not only does repeat business create value with a higher top line, but it also creates a more valuable business, because a significant database means you are providing more than just turn-over, but also the people who create that turnover. Despite the challenging demands of our industry everyday – we have no choice but to get better.

We aren’t initiating or pursuing a relationship with our customers well.

I had to work quite hard to get my wife’s number when I first met her. She joined the small Crossfit Box that I had been going to for some time. After a few weeks of trying to catch her eye – I felt there was enough in the way of coy glances to encourage me. The problem was that the Gym belonged to my mate and we were always surrounded by others, many of whom knew me well and were always on the hunt to have a good laugh at my expense; nor did I want to embarrass the gym’s newest recruit. In the end, I had to beg my mate to ring Alexis and ask her if he could give me her number. It was a big favour, but he did it and I got her number. We went on a date … it went well, and I asked her if I could contact her again. I gave her a kiss goodnight (which floored her obviously) – and now I’ve got a loving wife who I know will never dine elsewhere!

When a customer arrives for the first time – it’s like a first date. You want a relationship with them and you want their contact details so you can encourage them to visit again. The customer has to like what they see and have a memorable time; there needs to be some compatibility and then you’re in a position to do business again. What you need at that point is their contact details so you can entice them back and begin to build a relationship.

Initially, most of my Hospitality clients have said something like, “oh I’d do that if I had the luxury of time” as they wring their hands and furrow their brows agonising over a dip in sales. Or worse, I meet owners who aren’t the slightest bit interested in collecting customer contact details and using those details for a targeted marketing campaign. They’re thinking like this because of stress – they haven’t had the head space to think it through, or they are ex-Head Chefs who are carried away by the artistry of their business and think that sales & marketing is philosophically incongruent to their bohemian outlook and form of self-expression.

Rarely have I ever seen a Sales & Marketing position appear on a Hospitality small-business Organisational Chart. Most Hospitality Owners see Sales & Marketing as ‘a whole bunch of stuff that they do if they get the time’ rather than a critical ‘position’ on their OC alongside the Head Chef, Front of House Manager and Finance/Admin person. Of course, in a small-business it doesn’t have to be a full-time position – but it does have to BE a position with real hours dedicated to it and a real person who is responsible.

My wife has become an expert at spotting these businesses immediately. No reservations on the website, paper reservations, no loyalty programme beyond a cardboard card and eight buzzy bee stamps away from a free Hot Chocolate … meh.

We dine out several times a week, and ONE restaurant in the last TWO years (who isn’t already a client) has gained our email contact details – but it was never used. My wife doesn’t even like shopping, but she receives multiple Retail emails as the result of CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software), some that are clever and even engaging.

We know it’s hard, but what are you saying to your customer if you are NOT interested in collecting their contact details? Are you relying 100% on your floor-staff to cement that relationship and get adequate feedback immediately?

There is a common knee-jerk reaction from the stressed, or the artistic individualist, “Oh but the customer knows that it’s all automated even if they are addressed by name.” That’s true, but that doesn’t mean that CRM doesn’t work as a highly effective way of targeting your marketing to customers who have already had their first date with you. Targeted marketing towards existing customers is always going to be more effective than nameless stabs in the dark … and anyway we do our wedding invitations the same way, and most of us don’t have a problem with sending out group text messages to our own personal parties.

I’m hearing lots of but…but…buts – I’ve heard them all. It isn’t as hard as you think; and CRM software is really smart now, and in the hands of someone who has some understanding of human psychology (almost anyone over 30) you will have a winner on your hands.

Get your CRM system moving over the winter months.

Want a low-stress way forward? Here are some quick tips:


  1. Create a Sales & Marketing position on your Organisational Chart – make someone responsible (even if it’s you).
  2. Still have a paper reservations diary – are you serious?
  3. No online reservation system … really. Come on! Are you gun shy because you tried it in 1999 when the software was still rubbish? Now it’s good – really good.
  4. Got your bankcard/online loyalty programme going?
  5. Is the Entertainment Card data base still sitting in your inbox unopened and unused?
  6. Don’t forget the old-fashioned ‘Business Card draw’ and weekly Food & Beverage Voucher … it still works IF you actually turn the contacts into a great CRM system.
  7. The CRM software available now is fantastic – you can launch large marketing campaigns with the click of a button.


We may be in a tough industry, but my experience tells me we are a tough people – and while it’s a stressful gig – it’s also an incredibly dynamic, even an intellectual, experience. Done right – you won’t need an MBA from Stanford because you’re doing it every day.


31/05/2016 Mr Hospitality 

*If you would like any advice or support setting up a system that best captures the contacts of your customers – ring James 021 276 5909