Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

"Waitress! There's a Roach in My Hash Browns!" When Pleasing the Customer Becomes Lost in Other Issues

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

"Waitress! There's a Roach in My Hash Browns!" When Pleasing the Customer Becomes Lost in Other Issues

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of the case presented here focuses on how customers and employees can get overlooked when corporate officers must attend to legal issues which have been mandated in courts and published in national papers and journals. Secondary issues can be determined as students are encouraged to discuss training of employees and its impact on the five characteristics of service quality: reliability, responsiveness, tangibility, empathy, and assurance. As students discuss the characteristics of service quality, they can be encouraged to develop a perceptual map placing Denny's amongst its competitors based on the axes of quality service and training provided employees.

If the instructor chooses to address all seven questions and tasks, then the case will take two class periods to cover, approximately two hours. However, if the instructor chooses to focus on a particular question, such as Question One that focuses on the five characteristics of service quality, then the case would require no more than one class meeting, approximately forty-five minutes to an hour.

The case can be useful in the following courses: (1) Service Marketing: re-enforcing characteristics of service quality and the importance of training programs in marketing of services; (2) Principles of Marketing: influences of situational determinants and group members on consumer behavior; (3) Principles of Management: the impact of effective training programs on the service profit chain; or, (4) Principles of Finance: the impact of ROI on profit.


The case is presented from the perspective of the waitress. The readers are taken into her life, her work experience, and her current situation as life happens to her and builds stress for her throughout the evening and early morning hours. Although the students can get the idea that the person has made a career of being a waitress, they can discover that little actual training is made available for employees in her position with the franchise or corporate office.

She never mentions a training program with Denny's or even with her manager. Since she came to Denny's with actual work experience, any training was over looked. As the scenario progresses, she is quickly over taken with new responsibilities when the manager abruptly quits.

Enabling students to distinguish service quality as a result of training is a challenge. The case emphasizes a "walk in my shoes" type of perspective and will enable the students to better understand the lives of the people they will one day manage. Also, the case enables students to incorporate the five characteristics of service quality into marketing strategies and plans.

The case is designed to enhance each student's ability to differentiate each component of service quality and to better understand the significant role of first line employees in presenting the corporation to consumers and other employees. The overall goals of the case are to increase awareness that the actual physical product and service are two components of an overall service encounter; and, to enable students to understand that service delivery is a crucial element of service that revolves around training, evaluations, and effective communications within a company.


Two A.M. Sunday morning, and here sat Thelma-thirty years old, no husband, and two sons at home with their grandmother. She took one last drag on the cigarette before going back to her station.

"Denny's," she thought, "a big name place like this would be a good place to work. Insurance. Benefits. Social Security. I wonder if I get any benefits? And, the tips would be good-everybody knows Denny's." Thelma dreamed on about her new position in the restaurant world. Before working for Denny's she had worked at a little cafe in town, Country Kettle. A greasy spoon type cafe that had closed when the owners retired, the Country Kettle had provided her a meager living with no hope of benefits. …

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