It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and the Cedar Ridge Red Wolves just won their men’s basketball game. Naturally, just as they do with every other home game, most in attendance migrate down the road toward the town’s Bojangles’.
Tommy Haddock, owner of the store, says the crowd is business as usual, as the Bojangles’ is also overrun on Friday mornings before school, when the local high school students stop by to grab breakfast before first period.
He looks more like a tenured professor than a zealous consumer advocate. He is soft spoken with round wire glasses and a navy sports coat, a warm smile and gray curly hair. He is Michael Jacobson, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and at first glance it looks like he’s more likely to serve up a warm cup of tea than a lawsuit.
Money is tighter. Consumers are crabbier. So are many employees. But some executives say the recession has made it even more important for chains to leverage better service into happier patrons.
“Customers have limited funds these days and use more discretion with them,” says Tom Coba, Subway’s chief operating officer. “Their expectation is that they’re going to get good service, or they’ll go somewhere else.”