June 19, 2010
I've just taken a few days down on the coast to gather my thoughts and spend some time defining our forward strategy.
Having spent some early morning time walking the cliffs and deserted beaches we went inland and decided to have some lunch in a quiet village …. we discovered some great people, fantastic hospitality, some excellent beer ….. but we also discovered that these great publicans were failing to listen to their customers needs.
On entering the first pub we asked fro a menu to be told "Its after 2pm so the kitchen is closed". There was only one customer in the bar so, liking the place, we asked if they would be prepared to cut us a sandwich instead of cooking a full meal. They declined but did suggest we went to John's for a pasty.
So we followed their instructions walked down the road to the junction, turned right and looked for John's which we were told was 150 yards on the left. We expected a baker, or perhaps a grocery shop, but all we saw was another pub.
Well looking for pasties is thirsty work so we entered and on reaching the bar I said we were after some food and could we have a menu. The publican replied that they did not serve food and never had.
So feeling a little hungry I was about to leave when, David Morphew, my mate and mentor of many a pub and restaurant trip, said to the publican, We've obviously been sent on a wild goose chase as the pub down the road told us to come here for a pasty." To which the publican nodded sagely and replied, "We don't serve food, we never have, but we do serve pasties."
Well having eaten some marvellous pasties in my time; wonderful pastry cases full of succulent meat and vegetables, I'd always considered them to be food!
The problem was one of communication. Because the publican didn't serve meals, when asked for food he said he didn't serve food … and was happy for us to leave without spending any money. Only when we specifically asked for a pasty did he recognise the opportunity to make a sale.
Instead of translating our request for food into a chance to sell a pasty, and a few drinks, his answer drove potential customers away.
In his mind a pasty was a pasty .. and not food, which to him meant a full meal. If we had been dealing with someone for whom English was not their first language it might have been understandable. But we all spoke the same mother tongue. Because he didn't advertise the fact he sold pasties, and we were strangers and couldn't know he served pasties, he didn't equate our food request with the fact we were hungry and he had a solution in the form of what proved to be excellent pasties.
How often do we fail to listen to the real need behind a customer's request …. and how many times do we say "We don't serve food …. we only have pasties"!