Communication and self-confidence are the keys to excellence in service, general manager Anne Guerineau says
A PRIMARY challenge with a franchise system like Gloria Jean’s in Cambodia is getting the customers used to picking up everything at the counter and taking their drinks and food to the table.
While this practice is in common use in North America, Europe and Australia, in Cambodia people are more used to sitting down first and then having the menu brought to them.
But according to General Manager Anne Guerineau, people are starting to catch on to the franchise style and the future looks bright.
In addition to Cambodia’s first Gloria Jean’s franchise outlet on Street 51, two more outlets are slated to open in the near future: one at a kiosk in Canadia Tower at the end of October and one just up the Riverside, beyond Titanic and KFC, at the end of November.
Gloria Jean’s originated in Chicago, Illinois in 1979 but today is owned by Iranian-born Australian Nabi Salah and has more than 1,000 coffee outlets in 39 different markets worldwide including 450 in Australia, where it is now headquartered.
“Nabi Saleh brought it to Australia, bought the rights in 1994, and by 1996 they had only two coffee stores. He’s a professional trader in coffees and teas. By 2000, they had 200 outlets in Australia. Now there are 450 stores in Australia,” Guerineau says.
Some of the other countries where Gloria Jean’s is expanding include Turkey, Dubai, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates as well as the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India, Vietnam, China – “and now Cambodia,” Guerineau says.
Master franchise partner for Cambodia is a joint venture between two companies, with the local partner as Worldwide International investment firm owned by Hun Kimleng, Hun Chantha, and Hun Chanthou. The three sisters are owners of Worldwide International and are nieces of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
For Guerineau, excellence in service is all about communication. “There is no service if there is no communication. Communication has been a huge issue for Cambodia and basically if you do not ask people to express themselves, you cannot communicate.”
Guerineau makes that case that during the Pol Pot regime, communication skills were curtailed and therefore have to be revived.
“People had to learn to communicate again. To communicate, you need to know yourself, and the other person and I think that’s the best -- which leads me also to the importance of self-confidence.”
“I think the Khmer Rouge really broke the self-confidence in people. Once you work on these two aspects – communication and self-confidence, you can work on the next things.”
Another important thing for a leader of staff is to be present.
“You have to be very present and you have to give your staff precise objectives about what you are expecting. And, of course, you have to praise.
“Our best reward in this business is to see people coming again and again, and see them with a smile.”
Gloria Jean’s Coffee on Street 51 receives about 250 guests a day, “so we have to be good 250 times,” she said.
“You have to be close to your staff, because every day you need to repeat to them the good things they are doing.”
Guerineau says she never criticises, corrects or blames staff in front of others.
“You can go to them privately and say, ‘Did you notice what was wrong in your relationship with the guest?’ Provide them with a solution. This is the job of the manager.”
Guerineau, 41, is from Paris, with an older brother and a younger sister. Her father was a civil servant working for French Telecom and her mother worked for a big store selling bathroom and kitchen equipment before she had to become a full-time mother.
She started her life in Cambodia working for Pyramid Translation from English to French. The company also offered Khmer to French service.
Along the way, she met her Cambodian husband, and the happy couple, together eight years now, have a four-year-old son, Chinlak.
“Being a mother teaches you a lot about management,” laughs Guerineau, who joined Gloria Jean’s in October last year.
“I can speak a little bit of Khmer now, so I can make myself understood.”
Guerineau believes there’s no reason franchises can’t work well in Cambodia.
“Sometimes we have to localise the concept a little bit, but if they work worldwide, there is no reason they shouldn’t work in Cambodia.”
She describes Gloria Jean’s Coffee as a “fast-food franchise” like KFC or BB World.
You come, you order, you pay, you pick it up by yourself, just as at KFC and BB world.
“As we are a fast-food system, we have such a variety of guests: young, trendy Khmers, many Asian expats, Chinese, Vietnamese, Western expats, housewives. The challenge is that our staff has to serve everybody the same.”
Guerineau calls it an emot-ional connection.
“We don’t have customers, we have only guests.”
Every month, Guerineau conducts a visitation and looks at every aspect of the business as a way to improve.
“We look at the speed of service and the cleanliness. And I use this to highlight what’s going well and what’s going wrong,’’ she says.
“The store gets a grade and if they do well, everybody gets a bonus which strengthens the teamwork. If all the team is good and only one member is not doing his job, then they fail. It’s a great way to ensure the standard is up to guests’ expectations and to reward the staff when they do a good job.
“We are in the service industry. Make sure they do their job. They need to be happy to come here, and get rewards when they do a good job.
“Training is one step, but you have to maintain the effect of the training on the longer term. If you make your guests happy, they will give you a tip, and the next guest will come happily.”