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Foodservice lessons from a year on the road

I never thought I’d say this, but I think I’ve finally traveled enough for one year. From a week spent in Anaheim, Calif., for the NACUFS conference (and a subsequent Disney vacation) to a break from the winter chill for FoodService Director’s own MenuDirections conference in Jacksonville, Fla., I was on the road at least once a month in 2016. My suitcase got a great workout, and my cat is pretty certain I’m plotting to abandon him. speeding car

While I’m looking forward to a winter full of rest, relaxation and hot chocolate, I also pulled plenty of valuable tips from my time away from Chicago. Many didn’t even come from foodservice experiences—but they’re definitely teachable moments for anyone in the service industry.

Make good on your mistakes immediately. On the afternoon I was supposed to fly back from Anaheim, Southwest Airlines experienced one of the largest tech outages in company history. Flights across the country were grounded for hours, stranding passengers and resulting in 2,300 total cancellations, USA Today reported. It was a big deal—and the airline issued a big response, offering free same-day Wi-Fi and in-flight adult beverages, and emailing all affected travelers a code for a massive discount on their next flight. It’s the kind of service that keeps me loyal.

The latest in customer service: real-time communication. Slightly more than 24 hours after I checked in to the Arizona Biltmore for the SHFM conference, my phone buzzed with a text message. It was the hotel, checking in to see how my visit was going, and asking me to rate my experience thus far. Comment cards might be effective at improving guests’ next visits, but I was impressed that the Biltmore was proactive enough to think about improving my current experience.

Fill your guests’ dining needs at all times. By and large, Disney resorts are well-oiled machines—the “imagineers” have thought of everything. But I noticed one glaring oversight at both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure during my visits this summer: There’s almost nowhere in the parks to get a full meal during the 10 a.m. hour. On days when I skipped breakfast to get to the parks early and found myself starving at 10:15 a.m., I had to wait until restaurants opened for lunch at 11. Even the Happiest Place on Earth gets unhappy when you’re hangry.

Want more? Shoot me an email, and I’ll gladly share tales of inconsistent pasta plating, confusing payment lines, a tricksy sangria upsell and the white chocolate macaron ice cream sandwich I’m still drooling over.

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