To Perfect the Guest Experience

The customer’s journey is fast evolving with changing expectations, higher demands, new dining opportunities and more sophisticated ways to lure once loyal customers away to that “new shiny object”.

These common perceptions may ease the pain for those running restaurants that aren’t meeting their numbers. But unless the root cause of missed potential is understood, blame sets in, and false action takes place in the form of tinkering: changing menu options, focusing on management or ownership fault, making irrational staff changes, pursuing concept or decor experimentation, etc… It wastes time and money. So what do we do? What do we change when things aren’t right?

We get back to basics

In all of us are predetermined needs. They are core to survival, love, protection, growth, assertion and resolution. These needs lay the foundation for our emotions, our beliefs and our habits. They are so powerful we seek out to ways fulfill these needs without even being aware of it.

What’s fascinating about our business is that each and every restaurant offers the potential to meet nearly all of our core basic human needs. What makes a restaurant successful is it’s own unique ability to appeal to these core human needs in a consistently positive way.

Not so simple is achieving the balance between what people want, how much they’re willing to pay, what it costs to deliver and having something left over for our efforts. Whether somebody enjoys a taco al pastor, an ocean view or their 30th birthday celebration, there’s that greater take-away that drives a restaurant’s success.

This take-away marks a notch on the thermostat of survivability. Instinctively, humans are hard-wired to process the act of dining out into emotional outcomes and corresponding behavioral responses. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Burger King or The French Laundry. There’s no exceptions.

At our very core, it’s all about fear or pleasure

Interesting proof of fear or pleasure based motivation is the rapid growth, and sustainability, of Yelp and other review sites. The need to review, to share, to connect, to warn and to be a hero (“hey check out this great place I found!”), is primal. The growth in popularity of review sites was not because of any genius idea or execution. The moment technology allowed it, the existence and rapid growth of review-based web sites was inevitable.

When negative or fear based emotions dominate a customer experience, instincts shape actions which protect us as both individuals and as tribes. This protection mechanism is why the simplest issue can escalate into a socially embarrassing scene within moments. The emotional power behind (for example) disappointment (loss) is a primal reaction that not only triggers fight or flight, but records the events in 4K detail into our brain’s recall system. In other words, we’re programmed to remember the smallest details as soon as we enter a negative emotional state. The most significant reason restaurants fail (apart from financial mismanagement) is the inability to guide their guest’s instinctual state(s) throughout their interaction with the restaurant.

Moving away from the negative towards positive, there’s a neutral zone. When emotions are ho-hum, nothing gets recorded. It’s like static on the tv screen without reception. In other words, in the memory of the guest and in their potential scope of actions/choices, the restaurant doesn’t exist. There’s no record of it. This condition is nearly as damaging as a negative response except for the fact that no emotion means no action which means no word of mouth, recommendations or public review. No tribe. Statistically, the less repeat business a restaurant has, the harder it is to achieve any significant levels of success. Without repeat business, a restaurant loses the buffer it needs to sustain external or internal setbacks.

When positive or pleasure based emotions dominate a customer experience, instincts shape actions which encourage us as both individuals and our innate need to influence those in our societal reach. The urge to engage others in a form of social procreation kicks in. That is, fertile ground has been located. Ever see one ant discover something of value and moments later ants are everywhere? That’s how primal these instincts are- and how fast success can set in when conditions are right.

The emotional power behind socially connecting, having our physical senses stimulated, learning new flavors or textures, or starting a new relationship, triggers a positive emotional state which gets the 4K high res recording system going. What we experience here in this state is recalled in perfect clarity and preserved for a lifetime. It’s the best type of brand building imaginable. This is where the stage is set for limitless opportunities to achieve the restaurant’s mission at the highest levels. It’s not the menu, the uniforms or systems or even technology.

Feeling is what’s really on the table

It’s not blind luck or a byproduct of what we do. It’s not the taco or the view. Feeling IS the product. The other things we tend to lay heavy focus on are the delivery mechanisms that when combined correctly, trigger the instincts which influence behavioral choices. If those delivery mechanisms don’t function together in a way that results in positive emotion, then their purpose does not have a place. Most problems of this nature arrive when management or ownership forms an emotional attachment to these delivery mechanisms. This non-productive emotional attachment distorts the ability to see the business operations with clarity.

Business levels and activities in the dining room are primal expressions that originated with the creation of earth itself. From this perspective, we have a better shot at asking the right questions about what drives restaurant success. When we don’t understand why a restaurant is not succeeding, the temptation to start the busy work sets in, which exasperates the problem because it’s this behavior that actually accelerates loss.

We can mix these ingredients in the same way we carefully rotisserie pork for a taco or arrange the dining room to best accommodate an ocean view. We can create a recipe for success based on the idea of what our perfect guest experience is designed for as it reflects the very needs within us all.

So what is the perfect guest experience?

Think of perfect as a verb. It’s an act of doing. To perfect. Therefore, we must begin at the desired result, which is to deliver an outcome for our guests that feels so good, time and money are forgotten while memorable details are enthusiastically shared with others. First seek to deliver pleasure in a complete way: through mind, body and spirit. How is this done each day? It’s done by identifying a pleasure source which can be mapped to any of our core instincts and creating the restaurant’s concept out of these pleasure sources.

Here’s more on the perfection of your guest experience:

Use each day to perfect your guest’s journey through your staff, your purveyors and most importantly, through what your guests are feeling.

Adam Christopher
Founder & CEO, RestaurantConnect
Software & systems for a better restaurant.

To Perfect the Guest Experience 2018-11-02 20:55:21