We all work so hard on our food. But the truth of restaurant success is that, for most independent restaurant companies, food just gets you in the game. The guest experience, the price/value relationship, location, atmosphere, hospitality level, and even seemingly small things like parking and access are what cause people to make a decision to cross the threshold of your restaurant and dine.
The Complete Experience
Understanding what kind of complete experience appeals to diners— is what gives successful owners of multi-unit independent restaurant companies the greatest success and highest revenue, profit, and net worth.
I have conducted many focus groups of guests. My clients are often completely surprised about what motivates their guests and what they are thinking. I use that information to chart clients on a path to making adjustments that make big positive impacts on revenue.
We live in a country of 320 million self-described foodies. Interest in food, exotic flavor profiles, and star chefs on TV means people relate to what they eat in a more committed way. But, of those 320 million — who may self-identify as foodies because of the trend — a very small number are really knowledgeable about food. But every one of them knows where they like to eat.
Seeing Ourselves Through Where we Dine
Each dining decision is a small self-declaration of “I belong here.” The concept of “you are what you consume” has many authors, and I subscribe to that concept. You hear a diner say, “Oh no, I would never go there” because that particular restaurant — which could be the finest in their city or the biggest dive — does not reflect who they think they are and how they want to present themselves to the world.
It can be hard for restaurateurs to think that way, however, because there is typically no place they will not go in pursuit of knowledge about the marketplace. So it is critical to know who your guests are and to cater to them in every way beyond the plate. Here are things you can do.
4 Most Important Steps to Captivate Guests
- Assemble your team and drill down on your customer profile. Where is your sweet spot?
- Listen to the guest. Dialog in the dining room is good. Social media has its challenges because it may not be representative. Focus groups are a fantastic way to find out what your guest thinks —and the results may surprise you.
- Draw a conclusion from number 2. Get into action and continue to perfect the aspects they love about your restaurant and correct things that are concerns.
- And keep working on your food, menu, presentation, and quality every day. It keeps you in the game.