Chain's team culture results in happiness and repeat customers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 June, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 June, 1998, 12:00am

Happiness is contagious, and no one knows this more than T. H. Jim, chief executive of Pizza Hut, a repeat winner of service awards handed out by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA).

'We promote a team culture at Pizza Hut - if the staff are not happy, we believe they do not provide good service. If they are happy, they give service from the heart,' Mr Jim said.

To keep its mostly teenage waiters and kitchen staff smiling, the chain organises activities like barbecues and karaoke sessions.

'Even in this current economic environment, people should enjoy themselves,' Mr Jim said.

Pizza Hut sustained a slight fall in the number of customers after Lunar New Year as reduced consumer spending took its toll and some regular clients turned to cheaper alternatives.

'Our direct competitors are not pizza chains,' Mr Jim said, explaining that he viewed all fast- food outlets as competition.

To counter a shift away from Pizza Hut in its direction, the chain cooked up a new set lunch. The special included a drink, soup and a main course - pizza, pasta or a rice dish - all for $36.

The set meal strategy worked and diners returned. But Mr Jim knows that it is not just affordability that ensures repeat customers.

'We have a simple message for our staff - we want every customer coming to our restaurant to have a pleasant time so they will come back,' he said.

All junior staff attend an orientation programme before deciding whether to work in the eating area or the kitchen. The next step is training.

However, it was not so much training as fostering a cheerful attitude that set the chain apart from its rivals, Mr Jim said.

To promote a friendlier atmosphere, the chain organises programmes which involve both staff and customers. 'Twice last year, we had customers vote for the best staff,' he said.

'When customers had completed the form, they were given a coupon for a free pasta the next time they came. If the customers picked the best employee, their name went in a lucky draw for a trip to Australia.

'The best employee also won a trip to Australia.' Emphasis is also placed on internal service, thus ensuring good channels of communication throughout the group.

Managers in each department, from frontline staff to human resources, regularly complete questionnaires commenting on the various departments and making recommendations.

Clearly, the HKRMA's annual service and courtesy awards are important to Pizza Hunt.

'We use the awards as a benchmark to compare our service to our competitors.

'It's a high-profile award and we have done very well in the past,' Mr Jim said.

Pizza Hut has won one of the HKRMA's prestigious awards in each of the last three years - and has its fingers crossed for this year.