Over recent years, I have increasingly become aware of the analogy that can be drawn between running a recruitment firm and running a restaurant, crass as this may seem

I don’t claim to have run any kind of food and beverage business ever before and nor am I claiming that I could, as I expect there is a great deal more to it than meets the eye. I guess my fascination for the analogy comes from 2 sources:

One of my guilty pleasures is that I very much enjoy shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, in which a well known celebrity chef dismantles business practices and egos along the way in an attempt to get to the core of the issue of failing businesses and turn them around.

The other reason is that I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to eat out quite a bit in recent years, especially since living in Asia, where the practice seems to be the norm anyway, so I have made my fair share of observations!

The actual comparisons between running a restaurant and running a recruitment firm, could actually be applied to a vast array of B2C industries. The extent to the which an overall service experience can be broken down into a host of smaller experiences that are greater than the sum of their parts is absolutely universal. For instance, the importance of the greeting when you arrive and the fact that the bread roll is warm and fresh and not stale. Such seemingly small things can actually determine an experience and sew the seed of perception in the customer’s mind. Relating this to the experience a customer has with a recruitment firm, you could easily draw an analogy with the experience of calling the office and the greeting that is given, the wait time, the feedback cycle and the list goes on. The setting is different, but the processes at stake and the psychological impact are very comparable and therefore critical to get right to ensure the golden principle of ‘repeat business opportunity’ is observed.

However, the aspect of the restaurant analogy that resonates with me the most is actually based on a simple premise:

‘Why would a customer come here and why would they come back?’

To illustrate my point, I will give you a scenario…

Have you ever gone into a restaurant, been sat down and been handed a menu the size of a novel. Then you start reading through the pages and you see curry, pizza, tapas, Chinese …and the list of different dialects of food goes on and on, in a seeming effort to carter for every taste conceivable. Then you think to yourself, how does the kitchen actually cope with this size of a menu? If you’ve ever been to a good Italian or tapas alone, then the kitchen seems to be a hive of activity. So how could any kitchen cope with such a massive volume of produce and food types. Then the question comes into your head around how the quality can possibly be up to scratch and how inevitably corners will be cut with frozen or ready made elements to make such a menu feasible, rather than fresh produce.

Inevitably, of course, the experience is average; you don’t return and you don’t recommend the service, as do the vast majority of patrons, and a few weeks later, the business you were sitting in closes down or changes hands....

So surely, the same applies to the recruitment sector. How many recruitment firms claim to be an ‘expert’ in multiple sectors which sit poles apart such as finance and technology AND engineering. How genuine can the claim be? Surely to be successful you have to be known for doing a few simple things very well; back to the restaurant analogy, people will always refer to the BEST Italian or BEST tapas bar in town and they are always busy. The fact is customers respond well to businesses or people that are very clear about what it is they claim to do well, if they are actually able to deliver on this claim.

If there’s one thing I have learnt over the years, it’s not to dilute your message or your offering. Building a brand has everything to do with choosing, very clearly, what it is you wish to excel at and then focus your energies accordingly. There’s really no value in diluting your service by trying to hedge your bets and appeal to too many types of customer because there will be a competitor that trumps you in every area. The fact is, whilst there’s no shortcut to making your business successful, refining your vision and purpose is a good starting point and from there, decisions become easier as does finding operating efficiency, without the need to cut corners.

So, there you have it, my comparison between restaurants and recruitment – and in other words, in a competitive market, be a specialist!