3 Things Waitressing Can Teach Us About Marketing

Posted by Hannah Zhou on September 19, 2014

Waitresses are the face of your restaurant experience from the moment you take a seat. Simple mistakes (like onions on your burger) can ruin the atmosphere of an entire meal, while great service can uplift an evening.

I was a waitress once—albeit a horrible one—and while the job was sweaty and frantic, I learned a plethora of useful information. Here are a few marketing lessons waitressing can teach us...

The secret to great customer service

Marketing campaigns often include a side note: Customer service is key. In fact, customer satisfaction (whether online or in-person) has a huge impact on the success of your marketing strategy and business; on average, U.S. businesses lose $83 billion due to poor customer service.

So why might customer service be so important? The answer is simple: people enjoy it when they are taken care of. Waitressing is not only about delivering on the promise of service, but also showing the customer you care about them personally. That way, if something goes south in the kitchen (and inevitably it does), you have the leverage to smooth out those issues.

The same concept applies across all businesses. Truly caring about your customers means good service, which equals good feelings about the company; this allows more leeway during brand crises or even simple mistakes.

Small details can translate to big things

The other day I saw a waitress forget a man’s order at a restaurant. While she swiftly corrected the mistake, the man looked cross for the rest of the meal. Later, I re-checked the restaurant's reviews and found a history of similar mistakes—all ignored.

The takeaway from this: Address the small things now so they don’t become big problems later. As a business it may be easy to ignore minor problems in the grand marketing scheme, but bad news is amplified through the internet and the media. With social media, small problems can quickly be inflated into big issues.

Deliver what people want, but don’t lose yourself

Waitresses, product innovators, and brand managers all want to please their customers. Usually this attitude is good; if there is an angry customer, you should try your best to fix their problem. However, if a family walks up to your taco stand demanding pancakes and waffles, you must draw the line.

Many companies try to reposition or introduce products and services simply because a minority of their target segment wants them to—or because their competitors started doing it.

Don’t sacrifice your core competencies or brand identity just for the sake of customer approval.

A prime example of a company that stays true to itself is Southwest Airlines. This quirky airline has not changed its service model for 35+ years; they trade luxury air services—such as free continental breakfast and onboard electronic entertainment—for lower prices and efficient, seamless flights.

Southwest has been so successful partially because they refuse to trade their core values (customer service, efficiency, practical pricing) for services their competitors provide. They stick to their guns and do what they do best.

Having summer job flashbacks?

What other marketing lessons from your odd summer job experiences can you think of? Share your stories in the comments below!

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[Image: Mass. Office of Travel & Tourism]


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