UFood Grill may not get second chance to make first impression

LOS ANGELES , August 7, 2013 () – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

That saying is often true and can certainly be true for the fast-food industry and its customers. A recent example from my own experience came from UFood Grill, a small quick-service chain with about a dozen locations in the U.S. and Canada that offers what it calls “healthy and delicious fast food.”

The problem with UFood, which I tried last month at Boston’s Logan Airport on my way back to Los Angeles, wasn’t the food itself. My bacon cheeseburger was very good and less greasy than other fast-food burgers. The issue was the service.

There was only one order ahead of me, but it didn’t take long to notice that my fast-order of a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a soda wasn’t going to be made fast, even though there were six people behind the counter and one person working the register.

I then got really worried when I found out that the person ahead of me had been waiting 15 minutes for his food and his flight was soon to board. Slow service is a major no-no in the fast food world and is doubly so when the restaurant is located in an airport. There are two types of food places at airports for two types of customers: to-go places and kiosks for those who have a plane to catch in minutes, and sit-down restaurants for those that have some time to kill. UFood is the former, so its workers have to assume that their customers are in a hurry.

And finally, there was this exchange I had with one of the workers about 10-12 minutes after I ordered my food:

Worker: Oh, did you order fries?

Me: Yep.

Worker: Sorry, we need to make some. You can either wait for the fries or grab a bag of chips.

I didn’t get upset because UFood had to make more fries. The mistake here was that they didn’t tell me from the beginning that they needed to make more fries and that I may be better off settling for chips. When you make me wait 12 minutes to watch six people do hardly anything, forget that you have no fries and then tell me there’s a problem, you have a dissatisfied customer writing a blog.

My point is this:

When it comes to fast food, customer service is everything. I need to know that you’re cognizant of my time. For new customers, that’s especially true. I’ve gone to McDonald’s my whole life. They’ve earned my business. So if they pull a UFood one day, I shake it off.

But UFood made a bad first impression.

And I’m not looking to give them a second chance.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for IndustryIntel. Good food isn’t enough to keep him as a customer. He always requires good service. He can be reached at nevin.barich@industryintel.com

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