Selling Point

February, 2005

Local restaurants can learn a lot from one of Hawaii’s leading restaurateurs. Chef Roy Yamaguchi and his friendly competitors have done something extraordinary. They have elevated Hawaii as a culinary destination. They have also created an industry of suppliers of fine herbs, lettuces, tomatoes and cheeses. Yamaguchi has six eponymous restaurants in Hawaii and 24 around the world.

“It’s easy for restaurants to get people to come once,” says Rainer Kumbroch, operations manager for Roy’s Restaurants in Hawaii. “Our challenge is to get them to come back again and again. At Roy’s, our solution is to have a compelling product and great customer service.”

Kumbroch often asks the staff to describe the best service they’ve ever received. “If your service is not at that level, I ask them, why not? Our most important customers are the ones who have to save to come here for an important occasion. They put their trust in us,” he says.

“We look for opportunities to demonstrate the level of customer service we want to achieve. Recently a family dined with us whose car was broken into and their valuables stolen. The waiter asked me what I was going to do about it. I bought them their dinner. It’s invaluable marketing. They’ll go home and tell people about their terrible experience, but … and I want Roy’s to be that ‘but.’ It puts us in a different league.”

Transportation is another opportunity, says Kumbroch: “Half our customers are tourists sent by hotel concierges. It’s a $50 taxi fare roundtrip, but we’ll give them $10 off their bill. We’ll send them an appetizer [and say it’s from their concierge]. And we’ll arrange for the return cab to be ready when they are. It’s not unusual for a visitor to return two to three times in a week.”

Restaurants can be boring places for kids. “We have a $12.50 kids’ menu and give them a cheese quesadilla as soon as they arrive,” says Kumbroch. “Managers have babysat and entertained children so their parents can enjoy their meals. Kids want to come back to Roy’s.

“If there’s a problem, which is very infrequent, the servers demonstrate they are not trying to cover it up by bringing a manager in. The key is how we deal with it before they leave. We will buy them a meal or dessert, whatever it takes.”

Bob Sigall teaches marketing at HPU. His book, The Companies We Keep – Amazing stories about 450 of Hawaii’s best known companies, can be found at local bookstores. Contact him at:

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