Perhaps many – reading the title of this article – may wonder why I am interested in this topic. First of all, I would like to highlight that this article concerns Communication, in general or in particular. Of course, it is important to clarify that my role is not related to roles that I could not anyways have, such as a public health auditor or a security technician. Thus, everything that has been written is the product of a particular dual perspective, that of the communicator and the customer.
On the occasion of holidays we are all in new places, away from the daily routine and the high-pressure pace of it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we become more observant, even if we are not experts. We stay in hotels, we eat in restaurants, we shop in supermarkets (S/M), and therefore we are constantly in contact with food and catering companies. It is important to note that the subject of this article did not arise by accident. I decided to study the communication policy of such businesses with regards to the process of selling/distributing foodstuffs by using data from the last ten years from the S/M chain and hotel chain restaurants.
An S/M chain complies with relevant legislation using technical security services and with the necessary equipment and inscriptions in prominent locations to convince customers that they care about safety and hygiene. It also trains employees to comply with relevant regulations. However, a surprise visit to these businesses shows that education must go beyond formulas and focus on shaping a meaningful culture of human resources on these issues. For instance, the use of gloves and hoods is not always handled with due care. Communication-wise, this is a huge mistake since the customer nowadays is awakened and is particularly sensitive to hygiene issues. The executives of those businesses deal with the issue at times indifferently, at times apologetically and sometimes provocatively depending on the personal and/or corporate culture. But even the best price incentive is no longer enough to overlook health and safety failures today. In large urban centers, the phenomenon occurs less frequently than in the outskirts, perhaps because of frequent audits or because most stores have completed sufficient operating time. In local S/M chains, which may not prioritize hygiene, or in large chain stores, which are often urgent to operate and staff training is delayed, such incidents are more common. No matter what and regardless of the geographical constraints, the customer and – consequently – the communication costs should not be underestimated.
The case of hotel chain restaurants is equally important. Although the buffet food and the all-inclusive concept are undoubtedly attractive, there are many negative customer reviews about the quality and service of the food during the past years. It is well known and understandable business-wise that one of the “secrets” of successful professional cuisine is the rational management of resources / raw materials / food, which are invested capital. However, (and this is the downside to communication), customers often notice that certain foods “appear” for an unusually long time (some days) and the feedback is very derogatory, especially when (despite cooks’ efforts) the result is not aesthetically satisfying either. I also don’t need to point out the cases when the client finds foreign bodies or other things that should not be there in his food (due to human error or even incomplete preparation processes). Hotel executives should address such incidents and take immediate actions of moral or material (?) compensation to the customer, accompanying them with the required follow up.
In any case, as stated from the beginning, I don’t attempt to replace anyone in its role and duties. This article is simply the opinion of a Communication Specialist who decodes his personal observations and those of the clients and translates them into communicative stimuli. It is a consulting intervention, integrated into Total Quality Management (TQM), which aims to once again highlight how the business communicates itself and how the customer “receives” it in his own way. I chose this topic today because it may not be widely understood in terms of its communicative importance.