There’s been a great buzz of excitement around the opening of the new Sol Aztecas on Fourth Street in Louisville. Everyone here is a big fan of their location on Bardstown Road, and we were thrilled to hear that one was opening just a few blocks away from our office.
The new location has great promise, but there is room for improvement in a few key service areas.
Timing is Everything
Our favorite mystery shopping clients are the ones that demand that their service be evaluated during their busiest, peak hours.
As a dedicated manager once put it: “If we can’t be at our best when we know we are going to be busy, then what good are we?”
With that in mind, our team (and a few guests) walked down to Sol Aztecas at high noon on a Friday with a party of eight.
We had called at 10:30 that morning to make a reservation but were told that lunch reservations are not accepted (a policy that may need to be reconsidered on busy days).
We had a very rocky start to this visit for two main reasons:
- There is no formalized greeting process
- The physical layout of the entrance needs improvement
They need one. Especially for busy times.
Customers enter into a bar area. There is a register on the bar with a woman frantically ringing up tickets for every server on duty. All around, a chaotic mass of people bump into each other and wonder what’s happening, as there is no greeting process at all.
Aaron tried to request a table, but 15 minutes went by and he had never been acknowledged or spoken to in any way. He stood at the bar watching the woman at the register ring up tickets, but she never looked at him.
So not only did we not know the wait time, but no one on the staff even knew we were there. Had they acknowledged Aaron, someone could have been putting tables together for a large party. Someone could have gotten us drinks or appetizers. Taking just 20 seconds to acknowledge us would have greatly cut down our wait time and allowed them to move us along faster.
As Aaron observed: “Waiting for a seat is understandable. But waiting to just be acknowledged makes things harder on both the customers and the staff.”
This is a new location that is probably in the process of working out all the kinks, so hopefully they address the greeting process soon.
Because of the confusion just inside the door, the rest of our party waited for Aaron outside.
There were no employees to encourage us to sit at the outside tables and no clearly defined waiting area.
So for the 15 minutes that Aaron waited to be greeted, the rest of us formed a huddle just outside the front door.
A few other customers gathered around us, and that’s when Sol Aztecas lost business.
We watched six pairs of potential customers approach, assess the size of our group, and decide to take their chances at another restaurant.
And the shame is that there were open two-tops inside. Had the staff been processing new customers effectively, the twelve customers who walked away could easily have been accommodated.
A staff member matter-of-factly confirmed that Aaron needed a table for eight, and then hurried away.
He returned three minutes later and asked Aaron to follow him. Aaron turned around to motion through the window to the rest of our party. While he was doing this, the seater walked away, so we were left without our escort.
We found our table, but I hate to see service staff miss opportunities to build rapport, and the walk to the table is a great opportunity to connect with at least one member of a party.
At the Table
The service at our table was better, but by no means excellent. Our server did not introduce herself, and as the staff members do not wear name tags, so we didn't know who to ask for when we needed things.
The person assisting our server (I think he was a manager) did not consult with the server to see who ordered what, so he was forced to auction off our food instead of simply presenting it to the correct diner. The auctioning broke up our conversation and gave a haphazard impression.
No one realized we lacked silverware. We sat with our food for an awkward second or so before we took initiative and asked the server for it.
Refills were very slow, even as the crowd thinned out.
There was a confrontation with the server and expediter right next to our table (it’s never good to argue in front of customers).
Our food took a pretty long time to arrive, and our entire experience was 90 minutes.
If you’re a fan of the Bardstown Road location, expect a different menu and a very different vibe. This location has a more upscale, urban feel to it.
It also offers a more upscale menu than that used by the Bardstown Road location.
And if you order fajitas, make sure to ask for extra tortillas, as we didn’t have nearly enough.
The Fourth Street Sol Aztecas' location has not been open for long, and we're sure they’re still streamlining their processes.
As the staff becomes more comfortable with their roles, they should feel less pressure, allowing them to offer friendlier, more personable service.
In the meantime, establishing a better greeting process and moving the register will definitely provide better experiences, shorten wait times, and prevent potential customers from walking away.
I bet they get there soon, but it might be too early for a great service experience just yet.
But hey, what a great excuse to go back again soon!
This visit: Two Magnets.