Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Raving Fan Strategy

“I don’t want mere customers.  I want raving fans!  And I want them to visit our store and come away saying, “WOW,” and keep coming back.”

Mike Lovitt, Owner/Operator
Bristow VA Chick-fil-A

My first experience with Mike Lovitt was not long ago and I did not know who he was.  I stopped in to the Bristow Chick-fil-A for a quick carry-out lunch.  I held the outside door for two ladies coming in.  One was elderly, helped by the other, and I assumed them to be mother and daughter.  Mike came and held the interior door.  He called them by name!

Then he did something I have never seen before.  He called to a girl behind the counter and said, “Charlotte, get Mrs. Smith her favorite drink.”  Charlotte knew what it was and the drink was to the table practically before the ladies had sat down!  Mike spoke with them for a minute, brought their order to the counter, and went to fill the napkin holders on the center island.  The meal was delivered to their table.

When was the last time that happened to you in a “fast-food” joint?  Me either.  To myself I said WOW.

Then I ordered my meal and went to wash my hands.  Coming out a young girl was there holding my bag.  Handing it to me and reading the logo on my work shirt, she said, “Here is your lunch, Mr. Maaar ... kaaa … viiina … kiiina … niiich.  Thanks for coming!”  That’s not even close to my name, but she tried!  Leaving the restaurant all I could say was WOW.

I hear the kids all want to work at this Chick-fil-A.  My fifteen-year-old daughter had been by many times to drop off an application.  They never called.  So one afternoon she had my wife take her over and called me saying, “Dad, I got a job!  My first day is Friday, and I am going to wear the cow suit!  They are paying me [more than minimum wage] !”  She thought she was a millionaire!  I told her I would try to get by and take her picture.

Friday afternoon I did just that.  Not seeing her I went inside.  She and Mom are sitting at a table speaking with the gentleman I recognized from the door experience!  Mike Lovitt.  He is talking with them.  I sat nearby and listened.  Arriving at the tail end, this was an interview I have never seen before.

Drawing on the back of what must have been her file folder, Mike was teaching her.  He was teaching about what he expects of employees there.  And he is drawing as he speaks.

Mike was explaining the Raving Fan Strategy!  And the WOW experience.  It consists of three parts.

Operational Excellence – to be attentive and courteous, clean, serving quality food quickly.  All of that you would expect from any “fast-food” restaurant.  But not like Mike’s restaurant practices #1.
2nd Mile Service – interesting.  Roman law required a subject to carry a soldier’s sword for one mile.  Jesus counseled that everyone should carry it a second mile as well.  Why?  Because during that second mile a subject could return it at any time.  Who was the boss during the first mile?  And who was the boss during the second?  So, who is proactive at the Bristow Chick-fil-A?  Each employee - as they carry trays of food to the patron’s table; ask to “refresh” (refill) drinks; tell patrons not to worry about clearing the tables; offer a high chair as a family with a little one enters the door.  In other words, doing more than you have to or is expected.  Remember, WOW
Emotional Connection – have you ever entered a fast-food restaurant where they knew your name or what you like or typically order?  That is part of the Raving Fan Strategy at Mike’s store.   Given enough visits, they will know yours.

I was so grateful that my daughter could hear and experience this kind of information!  Never in my employment experience has anyone laid out anything like that for me!

It seems to me that in addition to teenagers, two other groups could use employment at this store:

A group residing in tents in a public park sitting around saying gimme, gimme.
And the most recent MBA graduates who think they deserve $500K a year, without any experience.

Then Mike invited her for a third interview!  Three interviews at a fast-food restaurant?  I told her to study the information he gave her and demonstrate that she is the kind of person that can provide what he is describing in his Raving Fan Strategy.  I also said to her that she costs him more per hour than he is paying her.  So she also has to demonstrate that she will be worth more than that cost.

More than what she costs him?  Yes!  Mike is in business to make a profit!  And the Raving Fan Strategy is how he wants to do that!  So he needs a team composed of the right people.  

In 1776 a Scottish economist wrote a book called The Wealth of Nations.  In it, one thing said is that the butcher, baker and beer maker do not provide our dinner because they care so much about us, although there is a degree of care in there.  He said they want to provide the best dinner they can to us so that we will come back again.  And when we come back they make more money.  And the more we come back the more money they make, and their lives improve.  They provide us the best products they can so they can derive PROFITS.  They are acting out of SELF INTEREST.

That’s not selfish!  It is self interest!  We all want better lives.  Mike is no different.

Her last interview consisted of a test!  A test of Do’s and Don’ts!  I don’t remember seeing those things in the file folder.  She says she got them all right.  Again, Mike wants to see if a candidate has on the inside what it takes to create Raving Fans!  He offered her a job as the newest hostess for the store, and she starts next week.  Mrs. Mike is ordering her a uniform.  And she thinks she is a millionaire!

I wondered if her having to go back time and time again to drop off an application is not a part of the interview process.  Does Mike want to see if someone has the gumption to come back more than once?  It would not surprise me a bit if that is not the case!


  1. Jay-

    Wow. Indeed. Thanks for your blog.

    I had the privilege of going to this Chick-Fil-A last year with my brother. Mr. Lovitt took our order. Later he was picking up trash, clearing tables and greeting customers . . Funny, smart and a very kind man. Does your daughter still work there?

    1. Thanks Mary. I am glad you enjoyed the blog!

      Yes, she still works there. I hope she is developing a good base for future work situations and habits.