Taziki’s is closing the disability employment gap and enriching their customer and employee experience at the same time – Interview with Dan Simpson


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Today’s interview is with Dan Simpson, CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, which is a fast casual chain of franchised restaurants based in Birmingham, Alabama that purveys Greek and Mediterranean cuisine such as gyros, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Dan joins me today to talk about Tazikis and eudaimonia, what it is, how they bring it to life, bringing hope and joy to others and what companies should be doing differently to improve their customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – If you want to improve your B2B customer experience, manage customer distress – Interview with Robert C. Johnson of TeamSupport – and is number 315 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Dan:

  • Eudaimonia is a Greek concept, first discussed by Aristotle, which means finding out how you’re wired, what your passion and gifts are in the world and then living those out in community with others that are doing the same thing.
  • Literally it means lasting happiness from living an authentic life in community.
  • It’s also the foundation of Greek culture and explains the heartbeat of the Mediterranean lifestyle, where people live in multi-generational communities where they live, work and eat together.
  • To bring that to life in Taziki’s experience they focus on three things: they make food from scratch, they build relationships with their customers and they serve their community.
  • They’ve recently seen around a 200 percent increase in online ordering (off premise dining), which includes catering and takeout and curbside and delivery.
  • For the first time, convenience has been prioritized above quality and price even.
  • It’s gone from 20 to 25 percent of their business and now it’s more than 50 percent.
  • But, actually foot traffic is up and that’s partially due to a combination of their dining and takeout offerings.
  • In that scenario, how do you maintain connection (their first brand value)?
  • To do that it starts with mindfulness and presence and something as simple as eye contact and paying attention.
  • We look and say, okay, if you’re a curbside order and we’re going to make your food, the first thing we do is say we’re intentionally going to make this food with love. We are going to realize there is a real human being, a real family, a real business group that is going to actually pick up this food and eat this shortly.
  • The second part is, even if you only have 15 seconds, then stop for a moment and look them in the eye and recognize them not with a scripted response but a genuine, spontaneous response to what you’re observing.
  • To do that you have to create a baseline, at least for a culture that helps. And, one that celebrates it when you get it right and discusses it and learns from it when you get it wrong.
  • Referred to the story I wrote about my service encounter with a person with disabilities in a Novotel in India.
  • We don’t see many people with disabilities in the service industries due to fear, fear of what is not familiar.
  • We would be wise to become students of anyone who has special needs because their abilities outshine their disabilities and they bring joy and love into our environment that makes us all all better off. And, guests have the same experience.
  • Only 35% of people with disabilities are employed.
  • Taziki’s Hope (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment) initiative partners with local institutions and hires people with special needs, teaches them how to plant, water, harvest and bag all of the herbs that they use in their restaurants.
  • Then every Taziki restaurant hires at least one one of these special needs individuals to work in their store.
  • What if every restaurant did this? Imagine the jobs and opportunities they would create.
  • They are also partnering with cult2vate, which grows local produce. However, they hire folks that are coming out of addiction or they’re coming out of incarceration and they are on their way back to being a contributing citizen.
  • Around 20 percent or more of Taziki’s workforce are refugees or immigrants to the US. They believe their country is stronger for being diverse and dynamic.
  • So, finally, their recruitment department is working with organizations that help job placements for refugees and immigrants.
  • This is not all a PR stunt. It’s not to drive commerce. It’s very much just living out who we are. If you’re gonna do this for a long time, you’ve got to love your work. And that sort of yields its own fruit.
  • Dan’s best advice:
    • To find our best future, we need to go back to our genesis, our beginnings. As Simon Sinek says: start with your why. A lot of things are easier downstream when you stay anchored in a clear purpose and profit will be an outcome.
    • Second, decide what corners you won’t cut.
    • Third, pay attention, particularly to your customers and your people with something as simple as eye contact and recognizing them. The currency of paying attention is kind of a lost art.
  • Dan’s Punk CX words: Presence and spontaneous.
  • The brands that Dan believes epitomises a punk approach to CX:
    • Nordstrom’s for the way that their staff are really empowered to do whatever it takes and a restaurant in Mexico that Dan, his wife and friends visited and that created an amazing spontaneous reaction from their guests which you will have to listen to the podcast to learn more about 😉

About Dan

Dan SimpsonDan Simpson, CEO of Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, which is a fast casual chain of franchised restaurants based in Birmingham, Alabama that purveys Greek and Mediterranean cuisine such as gyros, sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Dan Simpson was named CEO in February 2018 after serving as Chief Innovation Officer starting in May 2016.

Previously, he was a Taziki’s franchisee and managing partner at Fresh Hospitality from January 2015 until May 2016. Mr. Simpson was the founder and CEO of ToGo Technologies from May 2012 until January 2015. He was the Chief Development Officer of Dispensary of Hope, Nashville, Tennessee from May 2008 until May 2012. Dan earned his BS in Science from Clearwater Christian College followed by his MBA from West Virginia University. Born in urban Philadelphia and raised in rural Maine, Dan and his wife Kim now live in Nashville, TN, with their 3 kids. Dan serves on the boards of the Shalom Foundation/Moore Pediatric Surgery Center and Dovehouse Ministries and is a member of TedXNashville Society of Fellows.

Check out Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, the Hope Project, say Hi to the folks at Tazikis on Twitter @Tazikis and connect with Dan on LinkedIn here.



Thanks to Wikimedia for the image.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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