Be Consistent – Customers don’t like surprises

McDonald’s (and more specifically Ray Kroc) built the fast food service industry on one major principle – consistency. Go into any McDonalds anywhere in the world and order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and fries – and it will taste almost the same. In fact, the experience is the same (with small nuisances) from location to location. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll never be surprised.

There’s a story about the McDonalds French fry. It goes something like this…

During the early days of franchises, each location had some latitude concerning menu items, but there were two things that had to be the same, the famous “little” hamburger and the fries. As franchises spread across the country, the fries didn’t come out right at each location, Ray Kroc wanted the crispy, golden brown fry, not over cooked or undercooked. All the restaurants used the same potato, the same oil, but some locations just couldn’t get it right. After lots of trial and error, McDonalds found out it was a certain combination of the right ingredients, cooking temperature, cooking time and something very important (but overlooked), humidity. Once it was discovered, McDonalds not only wrote a detailed process document, they also had special fryers created. Consistency was that important.

One special note here , I don’t believe anyone should provide poor service, but it is better to provide bad service consistently, then great service sporadically. At least with consistent bad service, your customers have the proper expectation going into the transaction and can make decisions appropriately.

A personal note on bad service. During my 20’s, I lived in Denver and frequented a local neighborhood restaurant/bar. It was a great place to go and have a beer and some Mexican food and usually had a line for dinner. One of the things my friends and I enjoyed was going in on Sunday mornings and getting breakfast. They opened around 10am (I say around, because you never really knew if it would be 9am or 11am). As good as the service was at night (consistently rated top neighborhood bar in Denver), Sunday morning was the complete opposite. Sometimes they’d be open, sometimes not. Sometimes you get waited on, other times it would take forever just to get coffee. But the best time (we still a laugh about it) was the time we went in, sat down, order and served coffee, ordered our breakfast and waited. About 30 minutes later the waitress came by to tell us that they ran out of eggs and the cook went to go get some, but hadn’t returned.

They point is, we knew the service was going to be bad on Sunday mornings, but we loved going there. Just to see what would happen next. It was bad, but it was consistent.


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