#1 Path to Restaurant Success

Listen to your guests.

Last week I wrote about guests’ changing thinking on delivery and how it was out in front of many restaurateurs’ thinking.

Guests accept a tradeoff — convenience vs. quality. They have realized delivered food is never as good as it is in a restaurant, but they value the convenience of delivery even more than the quality of the product.

However, many restaurateurs have been insisting guests’ desires were wrong, so they hesitated to let their food travel. They were essentially in an argument with their guests — and that’s an argument they are guaranteed to lose.

If you own a multi-unit independent restaurant company, your business is all about guests: pleasing them, delighting them, bonding with them, inspiring them to become evangelists for your brand, and turning them into regulars.

Guest focus increases revenue through guest counts and PPA. It maximizes net worth and brand power. It protects your assets and sets you up for growth. It allows you to provide opportunities for your employees and serve your community with something special.

Three Client Guest Focus Parables

A lot of my work is advising senior management teams — setting them up to achieve what had seemed impossible.

Parable #1: At one client, I sat at a managers meeting waiting, hoping, expecting someone would use the word “guest” over the course of an hour. No one did. They talked about production, sanitation, staffing, scheduling — all things that seemed very important.

So I recommended a change. At their next meeting they had to finish every sentence with the statement, “and the benefit for the guest is….” That focused them on what was really important.

Parable #2: Another client — every time I brought up something the guest was asking for — had a reason they couldn’t make it happen. To-go, delivery, kids menus, marketing, even how they answered the phone.

It is not surprising their sales lagged behind the average in their segment.

Parable #3: At a third client I ran focus groups for a brand where we were certain there was a service problem. The focus groups revealed an interesting fact: the guests loved the service.

There was no service problem. The guests told us the branding was hard to understand and communicate to their friends. So we changed it. Revenue increased 30%.

You Are Not Rich Enough to Resist Your Guests

  • If your guests want an easier to-go or delivery process, give it to them.
  • If your guests are not responding to your marketing, refocus your marketing to offer them something they want.
  • If your guests are starting to like the competition more than they like you, find out why and make adjustments to strengthen your brand.

In the constant effort that goes into running a restaurant company, the best operators focus on guests while others think operations first.

If you want to know what your guest is thinking about your brand and about the competition — ask them. Like the operator with the perceived service problem, they might surprise you.