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Tuesday 07 January 2003

Baja Fresh and the Customer Service Rules

Tonight, I was at a Baja Fresh, part of the chain of semi-fast-food Mexican restaurants run by Wendy’s International.

At precisely 8 p.m., workers began collecting the hot-sauce bottles from the tables, and rolling up the mats on the floor — blocking the path to the restrooms with a pile of mats in the process.

According to the hours posted on the door, this place is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, or 11 hours — which means that they start rolling up (literally, in the case of the mats) when they’ve still got 20% of their business hours ahead of them. I would like to call everyone’s attention to Customer Service Rule #2:

Be prepared to deal with customers during the whole of the hours of business posted on your door. If you are a restaurant, you are not allowed to start stacking the chairs on the tables before your official hour of closing. You are not permitted to perform any regular mopping, vacuuming, or other periodic day-end cleaning until the customers are done and out of there. During your regular hours of business, the entire purpose of your enterprise is the direct sale of goods and services to customers. Housekeeping, bookkeeping, restocking, re-arranging, and ready-to-leave-getting should be done after the customers are done and you have their money. If business is so slow that it’s not worth actually being prepared for customers during the last hour you’re open, or worth paying your employees past closing time to take care of the housekeeping, maybe you’re staying open too late, or charging too much, or selling something that nobody wants. Or maybe your would-be customers just don’t feel like dodging the cleaning crews while trying to spend money.

If confronted about this, they’d probably claim that they have so few customers at night that it’s not worth bothering. (They in fact have more customers at night than your average fast food restaurant.) I wonder whether they’d have more customers at night, though, if they didn’t go out of their way to make the place uninviting after 8 p.m.?

Posted by tino at 22:45 7.01.03
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This might just be a problem with your branch. I’ve been in the branch in Columbia MD a number of times after 8pm (they are also open until 10pm) and they seem to be doing good business and not rolling up the welcome mats.

Now as to why the staff does things like this. Well basically these sorts of jobs suck. The employees, in general, have not incentive to actually care about the business. So why not do what is in their best interest (getting out of work as soon after closing as possible).

Posted by: Paul M Johnson at January 8, 2003 10:59 AM

I agree with that assessment. But the staff isn’t doing this on the Q.T. — the manager, who should be looking out for the interests of the owners (i.e. the Wendy’s shareholders) was in fact the person collecting the sauce bottles from the tables.

Generally, in a lot of these cases you find that the problem is that the company is unwilling to pay their staff for a long enough period after the doors are locked to do all these tasks after closing.

The ultimate cause of the problem, regardless of the proximate cause, is that the Baja Fresh management at some level just doesn’t give a shit about actually doing what they set out to do when they ordered the big lighted sign for the front of the building.

Posted by: Tino at January 8, 2003 12:11 PM

i have worked at baja fresh in columbus, oh (the polaris location) for the better part of three years, and even though, yes, my job sucks, one must realize that 70-90% of the time, it is not the employees that make the decision to clean up, but the manager’s decision. many times, buisness drastically decreases around 8:00 pm, so in order to keep the labor costs and overtime down, managers will have employees start closing procedures that if done as published in the training manual (feel free to talk to the corperate offices in thousand oaks, ca to obtain a copy for yourself) do not make the resteraunt so that customers feel unwelcomed to dine in. appx. 1 hour prior to closing time, the salsa bar should be changed out to the smaller, roundbowls from the larger oblong shaped ones. the rugs should be swept off with the broom, but not rolled up, if this is possible. (many times, this is not possible due to customers sitting in the proximity of where the dust from the carpets may fall.) cashiers should start cleaning the countertops in the front line and sweeping, and, again if and only if buisness is slow, scrubbing the floor with a deck brush and soapy hot water. while this is happening, the manager(s) should be counting 2 of the 3 register drawers and starting nightly inventory. Utility should be sweeping the floors where it is possible without disturbing the customers, and if buisness was busier than normal, closing off the smaller half of the resteraunt so that the tables may be cleaned, the floor swept and mopped, salsa bottles cleaned and filled, and the windows cleaned.

this follows the adage “killing 2 birds with one stone” because not only does it increase employee safety from robbery, it also cuts down on overtime.

as stated before, i have worked with the company at the same store under the supervision of at least a dozen different managers for the better part of three years, and yea, the job does suck. the hours suck unless your a mexican (not intended to be racist, just the truth) and as a minority (one of 3 non-hispanics out of a total of about 20 employees) i’m lucky to average around 12 hours a week unless i want to bust my ass working split shifts every day of the week and not have any life at all. i played that game for too long before i was forced to cut my hours down due to an injury (non job related) which required surgery. i am on no side here, just stating things how they are.

Posted by: "john doe" at February 24, 2004 05:22 PM