Customer Needs First

Nothing drives me more crazy than when companies don’t appear to know their customers. You’d think this wouldn’t happen too often, because those that don’t wouldn’t last too long. Unfortunately it happens more than you think, which just amazes me.

One of these places is Gordon Biersch in the San Jose Airport. I fly in and out of San Jose a lot. Gordon is right next to Gate 10. Gate 10 is where United flights to Denver depart, so it’s not uncommon for me to get some grub from Gordon Biersch before my flight. They are convenient enough that I am the Foursquare mayor. Despite their location being convenient, their service is anything but.

People in airports are coming or going. They have time constraints. Any shopping or eating must function with in those constraints. Leisure is NOT the mindset people in airports are working from. They are transitory. They need to get in and get out. They have a plane to catch.

Understanding this, everything a restaurant or store in an airport does NEEDS to operate from this perspective — in, out. The check out process, items for sale, the menu, the preparation process, the staff, the layout, everything must operate from the understanding that your customers are under a time constraint.

Gordon Biersch doesn’t seem to get this concept. Every time I’ve eaten there it takes just as long to get my food as it does in a non-airport restaurant. Sometimes it takes even longer. It can take 20 minutes to get your food. This is too long. Today I had 30 min before I had to board my flight. From hello to the time my food came took 30 minutes. I had to take my food to go. This is too long for an airport restaurant.

If I break down the process it went like this:

1:15 Sat myself
1:16 Waitress greeted me and asked what I needed (this was great, but unfortunately not the norm, usually I wait at least 3-5 min before I’m greeted)
1:16 Waitress takes my drink order, I ask for a few minutes to look at the menu.
1:19 The waitress returns with my drink and I give her my order.
1:33 The waitress let’s me know my food will be out shortly. I ask her for it to go, as now I don’t have time to eat it there.
1:35 I ask the waitress if she could check me out now.
1:37 She takes my credit card, and checks me out.
1:42 My food arrives in a to go box. I ask for a to go for my soda and the waitress tells me they don’t have to go cups. (really?)
1:43 I walk out, still haven’t eaten and no soda to drink with my meal.

Almost nothing about Gordon Biersch at San Jose airport is structured for speed. They aren’t structured to get you in and out, the most important thing for most people in an airport.

There aren’t a lot of options at SJ Airport, especially near gate 10. I have to believe that is why they can get away with it. But just because they can get away with it, doesn’t mean they have to.

The best companies build business that fit their customers.

A play place for kids in my neighborhood has little tiny toilets in the bathrooms. Everything in Build-a-Bear is kids eye view. These places understand who they sell to.

Build your business with your customers perspective in mind. The product or service is only part of it. It doesn’t matter if Gordon Biersch has the best food on the planet if I don’t get time to eat it.

I’m the Foursquare Mayor of Gordon Biersch. Yet, I’m not a big fan. It takes too long to get my food. It feels like they don’t really care about what I need . . and that’s food fast.