Restaurateurs today place great emphasis on a guest’s dining experience to encourage customers to choose their restaurant over the competition. What a customer is really looking for in his dining experience is quite simply: good food, a pleasant ambience and decent service.
Despite all efforts, lapses in delivering the promised experience often happen. To understand what’s disliked in restaurants these days, I spoke to people I know that patronise them frequently. Here are their top 3 responses regarding food, service and ambience respectively...
Customer: “While most restaurants allow me to have variations of dishes on their menu, quite a few I’ve been to recently, just won’t listen. If I want to have a certain sauce with cottage cheese and I am willing to pay for it, why not just let me have it. I think it’s elitist and absolutely against the customer centric philosophy that restaurants claim to follow.”
All restaurants must take their food seriously and chefs work hard at delivering their part of the guest experience. In the culinary world, a certain type of sauce or quantity of seasoning suited to a particular combination of vegetables may not be well suited for another, since they have different characteristics. Interchanging these thus amounts to compromising the best that the establishment has to offer.
However, a restaurant that insists on forcefully “educating” even those customers who prefer otherwise, will do itself more harm than good, even if its chef is “right”. A customer today will prefer to be politely informed of the culinary implication of his request, a few suggested alternatives and the fact that it is ultimately his prerogative and that the dish will be served the way he wishes.
Customer: “I understand that restaurateurs have to make a living and considering today’s costs, even up-sell, but why not do it once subtly and then let it go? As if we don’t get bombarded enough with sales suggestions through telephone, email and even at our doors. It’s irritating to have to hear scripted lines thrown at me at every opportune moment when I’m just trying to relax.”
This customer doesn’t need convincing about a restaurant needing to up-sell. He knows the difference between up-selling and hard selling. At what point, is that line being crossed? Somehow, when an accomplished team member of a reputed brand charmingly asks, if you would like your cold coffee with a dollop of ice-cream, with a twinkle of delight in his eye at “ice-cream”, you are less likely see it as an intrusion or to take exception. This is one skill which takes not just repetition of lines from an operations manual, but lots of deliberation and practice to speak with conviction.
Customer: “The other day, I visited this al fresco Mediterranean café that wears its cool attitude on its sleeve. I was surprised see a guest smoking and asked the waiter if the law prohibiting smoking in public places had changed. His response: “Just as hukkah bars allow it, we do too.” Look, I have no unreal expectations about anyone dutifully following the law these days, but I certainly don’t like to inhale smoke from someone else. I have my smokes when I want, but it’s so uncool for someone to assume that it’s OK to take that liberty with me. I could be a non-smoker. When a restaurant overlooks smoking, it endorses it.”
My dear restaurateur, a hukkah bar by its very nature, is a smoky place. Your brand promise to offer fine food and beverage amongst other things, involves delivering that experience to your guest through his five senses including smell. By overlooking smoking, you have killed the sense of smell component of the experience for neighbouring tables. More importantly, you have taken your other guests (whether smokers or not), for granted.
Restaurant policies that encourage such practices, whether forgivable or not, are obviously upsetting to guests and either take away from his experience or ruin it entirely. In both situations, within an experience that a guest has chosen to have with a particular brand, moments that turn out poorly, are lost forever.