In 1994 a renowned restaurant consultant named Allen H. Kelson wrote what became a seminal article in the restaurant business called “The Ten Commandments for Menu Success.” It is arguably the foundation of what is called "menu engineering" – the deliberate and strategic construction of menus.
It was recently revisited by Lucas Ranzuglia, in a post with the descriptions of each commandment slightly reworked for the bar industry.
When reading the article it's hard not to be struck by just how many of the ideas also apply to the retail flower business. We've talked about the similarities between restaurants and the flower business before, and this was another great example of that.
Now, just as Mr. Ranzuglia tailored the original article for the bar business, we'll look at how it applies to the flower business. Remember – we're not just talking about a written menu or description on your website, we're also talking about the way that you describe your products to customers over the phone. This is very relevant at this time of year, when you will be required to describe your Mother's Day arrangements countless times.
1. Speak Plainly
The idea is to be straightforward and clear, avoid jargon or words in other languages that your guests won't understand. Use them only if it works for the concept, and still they have to promote sales without sounding intimidating, snobby or off-putting.
Florists love and know flowers. They spend most of their working lives (and often much of their personal time) among other people that share their knowledge. It can be surprising how very little "civilians", the people outside the flower business, know about flowers.
When writing descriptions or talking to customers avoid industry and insider terms and shorthand. Nobody likes to feel dumb; nobody likes asking for clarification. Use words that you can be sure everyone will understand.
2. Say What’s Important
Don’t forget to name characteristic flavors or preparations in your recipe. For example, if your drink is frozen, make it clear. If it’s hot, make it clear. Does your drink come with a pickled onion (like a Gibson)? Let the guest know they will find that flavor in the drink. Does your main drink have litchi? Call it a “Litchi XXXXX” not an “Asian paradise” ...
People can have very strong feelings about flavors, and about flowers too. Right or wrong a customer may be averse to certain flowers, colors or styles, so if an arrangement has a particular characteristic be sure to name it. This closely ties in with the next commandment...
3. Describe It Completely
Try to make sure you let the guest know what they’re going to get. Avoid disappointments.
Also called expectation management this is very important. How many people are disappointed when the flowers they ordered from a drop shipper arrive in a shipping carton, looking absolutely nothing like the picture that they ordered online? Don't make that mistake. Make sure that your customer understands what it is they are buying.
4. Less is More
Try to minimize the time guests spend reading the menu... Don’t itemize every ingredient, just the ones that lead the flavors.
You don't need to itemize every stem (and trying can create any number of other problems). You do need to be clear about the things that will be obvious to anyone looking at the arrangement – color, style, focus flowers, container, etc.
6. Maintain a Sense of Perspective
As the author says “a menu that recommends everything recommends nothing”. Give preferential treatment to the items that you want to sell, either for profit or for identity (brand image).
People love the idea of choice but what they really want is an easy choice, and that means giving them guidance. If they ask for a suggestion and you name of twenty possibilities without inflection you aren't really helping them. They want guidance. Use your authority as a professional florist to point them in the direction of your favorite, and/or the principle of social by mentioning which arrangements are most popular.
8. Spell it Properly
Make sure you are not misspelling something. If you are an expert act like one. If you can’t write it properly what chances are there that you can mix it properly?
In addition to avoiding misspellings you also need to avoid misspeaking when talking to customers over the phone. It is very easy for part time order-takers who are not trained floral professionals to get flower names wrong. Many customers won't notice, but if they do it will really undermine their confidence in your expertise. This goes beyond flower names too – a friend once reported losing faith in their florist because the person on the phone kept talking about "Valentimes" day. If they couldn't get the name of one of the biggest floral holidays right how much could they really know about this business?
9. Punctuation and Grammar
Check your grammar and group your descriptors. Learn about the grammar rules in the language that your menu is written in.
Basic mistakes in your product names and descriptions will plant the seeds of doubt in the mind of the customer. There are plenty of florists (and national websites) that won't make mistakes, so why take a chance on a florist that gets even the basics wrong?