I was very lucky to accompany some clients on a ‘benchmarking’ exercise last week – I went with a group of leaders from the University Of Sheffield UNICUS team to visit the award winning restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire (Hey, someone had to do it!). WOW – what an experience! As well as an outstanding meal provided through amazing customer service, we got to have a good look ‘behind the scenes’ accompanied by Executive Chef Gary Jones, who gave us a fascinating insight into a truly Dramatically and Demonstrably Different business.
Here are just some of the many lessons we learned…..
Lesson #1: Engage Your People!
3D Characteristic #1 is ‘Get That Vision Thing’ and it’s about having a clear picture of the future that ‘stimulates, excites and inspires’, getting ‘buy-in’ to that vision and ensuring everyone understands their role in making it happen. We met a wide range of people who clearly demonstrated that this exists in this business. From ‘the man himself’ Raymond Blanc who started the business years ago and spoke to us passionately about his ‘vision’ and how he hopes to take the business forward, through to a young man called Lawrence who had originally worked there part time while at school, and having been to college for 3 years, is now a junior member of this winning team with real ambition to grow and develop within it.
Some questions for you…
- Do you have a clear vision that ‘stimulates, excites and inspires’?
- Does everyone in your team know what that is?
- Are they all clear about the role they play in making it happen?
Lesson #2: Be Clear About What Differentiates You – And ‘Deliver’!
Establishing a ‘Dramatic Difference‘ is 3D Characteristic #2 and it’s clear these guys work hard on this. Gary talked about being ‘brilliantly simple’ when it comes to their food. He admitted that in the past that they may have tried to be too clever, and they now focus on locally sourced ingredients (much of it from their own beautiful gardens) combined, prepared and cooked exquisitely (and from our experience it was!). This was also supported by a consistently brilliant customer experience, with comments (and actions) from the front of house staff that ‘Demonstrated’ this.
Our research suggests that 3D Businesses focus on the customers they want to work with (we call it ‘Choose ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em!), and Gary explained how a couple of years ago, they consciously put their prices up knowing that they would lose some customers. They did, but they were then able to concentrate on those who were prepared to pay for high quality and this has certainly ‘paid off’!
3 more questions for you…
- What’s your ‘Dramatic Difference‘?
- Do you and your team ‘Demonstrate‘ it in everything you do?
- Are you focusing your efforts on the customers you WANT to work with?
Lesson #3: Consistently Great Customer Experiences Are Key!
We had a wonderfully consistent outstanding experience throughout our visit. Every member of the team was courteous, welcoming and helpful, and it was clear that this didn’t happen by chance. From the systematic and detailed schedules and rotas Gary showed us that ensured that the right people were ‘in place at the right time’, to the attentiveness of those people, the result was inbuilt ‘customer delight’!
The signs that reinforce this were all over the place starting with some lovely messages on the menu:
“Children of any age are not only accepted, they are welcomed. We have a special menu for them.”
“There is no service charges at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and we hope none of our guests will feel obliged to leave a gratuity. However, if you feel that the service and the meal has been exceptional and would like to leave a token of your appreciation, you are very welcome to do so.”
Gary also ‘practised what he preached’ by designing and personally delivering a wonderful ‘extra course’ of slightly sheared scallops which were absolutely delicious – it all added to the ‘customer delight’!
The personalised experience from every single staff member made us feel extremely welcome and never ‘out of place’, which is something I have definitely experienced in other ‘top’ restaurants. Interestingly, we noticed that there were no signs to the loos! There was no need because the staff always helpfully showed you the way if you wanted to go! It’s all about consistency – a key ingredient of 3D Characteristic #3: Create Delighted And Devoted Customers.
Here we go – 3 more questions for you…
- How do you ‘delight’ your customers?
- Are all your people encouraged and enabled to do it?
- How do you create consistency in your approach?
Lesson #4: Build On Your Strengths And Maximise Opportunities!
3D Businesses maximise their relationships by giving the best to, and getting the best from the customers they want! 3D Characteristic #4 is Forget CRM, Think MCR! It’s about Maximising Customer Relationships – not in a pushy way, but providing customers with what they want! Le Manoir has built on its brand and reputation with a wonderful range of extra ‘offers’ ranging from cookbooks, toiletries, wedding and meeting facilities, cookery courses, gardening courses and some great events.
Here we go – 3 more questions for you…
- How good are you at ‘maximising’ your customer relationships?
- What ‘extras’ do you offer your customers?
- Do they know?
Lesson #5: Maximise People Potential!
The whole ‘feel’ of Le Manoir was a positive one and it’s clear that they’ve worked hard on establishing, reinforcing and living a culture that creates real competitive advantage. Our definition of culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ and in 3D Businesses, this is not left to chance (3D Characteristic #5: Create An UBER Culture) Le Manoir have clearly worked hard at establishing a culture that creates a great group of committed, engaged and effective people.
From the signs and noticeboards in the kitchen highlighting ‘success stories’ of current and past employees:
Gary explained that their recruitment process very much focuses on attitudes rather than skills – they want people with a ‘can do’ attitude and their interview processes very much focus on finding people that will ‘fit’ and enhance the culture – he would rather say ‘no’ to some one who wouldn’t fit, even if there was a gap that needed filling. This was clearly evident in conversations we had with everyone we met regardless of ‘seniority’. Raymond spoke passionately about his team and clearly ‘lived and breathed’ the culture he wants and it was clear that this permeated every level of the business.
So, 3 more questions for you…
- How do you ‘maximise’ the performance of your people?
- How do you reinforce the ‘culture’ you want?
- Do you live it?
Lesson #6: Numbers Count!
Raymond and Gary explained to us that the next day was their Board Meeting and it was good to see that they seem to have the same ‘pressures’ as the rest of us when it comes to profitability and growing a business.
The challenges of increasing wage costs and a dropping pound due to Brexit uncertainties, meant that their analysis of the ‘profitability’ about each of their offers has proved very valuable. The result, as mentioned above, has been some things (products, services and customers) being ‘dropped’, and others being proactively developed. Guess what… that’s a key ingredient of 3D Characteristic #6: KeeP In Control!
So, 3 more questions for you…
- How ‘in control’ are you of your business?
- Do you understand which products, services and customers deliver your profits?
- Are your efforts focused accordingly?
Lesson #7: Make Innovation Work!
Like so many businesses, they are in fast moving, competitive world. Gary explained that if they stand still, they will be out of business, so he personally spends a significant amount of his time and energy researching, developing and testing new products (all in line with their ethos he emphasised).
It wasn’t just their ‘products’, it was their systems and processes too! 3D Characteristic #7 is InnovatiON which we describe as ‘the successful exploitation of new ideas’ and there was lots of evidence of this in the way they had proactively developed their production processes. From preparation areas that quickly transformed into sinks and basins, and lighting systems that can be raised up and down depending on how tall you to ensure you are comfortable as you prepare the food, it was all about making improvements in the areas that count.
Last 3 questions for you…
- How much time do you spend on ‘InnovatiON’ in your business?
- What systems and processes do you have to make this happen?
- What are the tangible results?
So, all in all, a fantastic learning experience for all and this was clearly evidenced in the presentations the UNICUS guys gave the next day to highlight this. It was well worth the time and effort (and money!) and leaves me with one last set of questions….
- Who’s ‘world class’ in your sector?
- How could you learn from them?
- What will you do to make it happen?
If you’d like a free E-Book that introduces the 7 Characteristics Of Dramatically and Demonstrably Different Businesses, you can download that by clicking on the image.
If you’d like to buy the book in paperback of Kindle, please click on the image below: