That’s our policy!
How many times have we heard someone defend some ridiculous statement by saying that "it's our policy”? Sometimes we even see “policies” posted in plain sight and all we can do is shake our heads. I have several examples of this, but I’ll focus on one that sticks out.
Recently my wife, 2 of our daughters and I arrived at a local restaurant around 5:40 and were promptly seated at a table next to the bar. We were excited to see that happy hour ended at 6:00 and there were some interesting drink specials. My youngest daughter is only 20 (the legal age in our state is 21), so she was unable to sit at the bar where the happy hour specials were offered. We explained our predicament to our waitress and asked if we could get the happy hour prices for just one round at the table.
This was, in my opinion, a reasonable request. However, the waitress said they could not do this due to their policy. She did offer to allow us to stand at a railing 10 feet away at an area also next to the bar, but we would lose our table for dinner. We declined and stayed and our table. We order one round of drinks and appetizers at full price and each of us enjoyed a nice dinner.
Our waitress was good, the meal was satisfactory, and she received a reasonable tip. This restaurant is well known and part of a larger restaurant group that has a good reputation. Notice that I have not used the word exceptional to describe this restaurant or experience. But with just a few small tweaks, they could easily move into that exceptional category.
What harm would there have been in offering one round of drinks at the happy hour prices? Why not make sure the servers understand that some leeway in the policy is allowed and encouraged. If our waitress had offered us happy hour prices at our table, we would have gotten at least one more drink and she would have gotten a better tip because I would have felt that our business was truly appreciated.
I am not saying that policies are a bad idea; they’re not! I am not saying employees should disregard your policies; they shouldn't! Policies are there for a good reason, they protect our interest and they protect your staff. However, if you teach your team to weigh the value of using their judgment as to when to enforce a policy and when to give the customer a “break” you will reap the rewards of customer loyalty and positive word of mouth. This will be overwhelmingly more valuable to your business than the low cost of a couple of reduced priced drinks. This will help keep the “happy” in happy hour! That’s just good common sense!