The Six Automatic Restaurant Success Triggers

Continuing our look at what drives restaurant success, we’re digging deeper into the emotional impact of connecting experiences to our core human needs.

Every time a person thinks about going out to eat, there’s a list of questions and answers that influence their decision. Most are automatic. A few are deliberate. Some are concrete. Some are malleable. What we perceive to be appropriate, enjoyable and worth effort, time & money is filtered by instinctual emotions.

The emotions work in two states that highly influence how we spend our time and money, which equals busy restaurant or not busy restaurant.

Emotional Result #1: What has happened- the past event

Like a computer saving a file to a hard drive, a strong emotional situation writes significant event to memory. The circumstances of the event are stored for later retrieval. This is a survival mechanism which can’t be turned off. It’s automatic. The greater the emotion experienced at the time, the more detail, clarity, and faster the ability to retrieve what was recorded at a later time.

How does this apply?:
Future decisions are more efficient. It’s why we develop habits. On the positive end, it’s how we either build repeat or word-of-mouth business. On the negative side, it’s why a brand is forgettable, meh, or even disliked. It’s the source of the downward spiral that leads to all-too-many business failures.

Emotional Result #2: What will happen- the future event

The past event emotional result is also survival mechanism. We use this to see into the future and formulate anticipation. Anticipation measures pleasure or pain at a certain potency level. Based on our tolerance of pain, and need for pleasure, we either move towards or away from something. If there’s not enough information, we seek out additional information or allow for other circumstances to establish dominance.

How does this apply?:
We want people to trade their money, and their time with us in exchange for an experience. This requires inspiring action.

Once we receive the impulse to act, then the next questions is, what to do? What happens next is as instinctual as our need to breathe. It comes down to core human needs.

Anthony Robbins has given us an insightful look at what drives human nature and why we choose to do the things we do. His description of our core human needs works well with how people experience most restaurants- and creates the basis from which to fully understand the powerful driver of business these core human needs are capable of:

The six core human needs are certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution. The first four needs are defined as needs of the personality and the last two are identified as needs of the spirit.
– Anthony Robbins

He tells us that how we value these needs, and in what order, determines the direction of our life.

Let’s explore how this applies to the experience of dining out. By understanding our human needs, we’ll be able to understand what drives emotional outcomes.

Why does this matter? Because our business, our job, is to create emotions. When delivered in a positive way, human nature builds our business for us. In this space, success is natural and easy.

Core Human Need #1: Certainty

Certainty is the need to feel in control and to know what’s coming. This is also security, predictability, and consistency. It’s the area of our mind that decides how much risk a person is willing to take. It’s how we maintain social order and stability.

How does this apply?:
Going out to eat carries out some level of risk. Time and money- those are two powerful risks. We need to know what’s coming. We need to be able to anticipate. This is a survival instinct. We all have a gauge that tells us how much certainty we require to feel safe. We’re always on the lookout for signs, flags, or clues that will send off the alarm system, and tell us to get into flight or fight mode. Losing control of this need, in business, is the first crack where all the other needs fall through. Without certainty, without security, no matter how well other needs are met, there’s no getting around this. In survival mode, as humans, risking time and money without a higher purpose creates a pain point so powerful we run away 20x faster than we do towards pleasure.

Core Human Need #2: Variety

Variety is a need for uncertainty, surprise, adventure and novelty. This is a paradox, because this need is the opposite of certainty. It’s why we’re such dynamic creatures. It’s why we’re unpredictable. It’s why we’re interesting to each other.

How does this apply?:
With the understanding that we need certainty and uncertainty to be satisfied, we can tune these opposing forces to work in our favor. For example, let’s look at a first date: One person wishes to take another person out to dinner for the first time. The restaurant environment can provide a level of certainty and security to our young couple, while the excitement of a new relationship and a potential new course in life stimulates the release of endorphins, putting the two into a natural high. The glow is unmistakable.

Core Human Need #3: Significance

Significance is the need to have meaning, to have a sense of importance, and to be worthy of love.

How does this apply?:
What a simple, rich way to feel significant when somebody refers to us by name when we arrive somewhere. The power of hearing our own name spoken goes so deep it reaches back to the very first moments of our life- where those that say our name are givers of life itself. When we understand significance and put it together with certainty (a need for security), saying someone’s name does both instantly.

Core Human Need #4: Love & Connection

Love & Connection is the need to communicate, to be unified, to enjoy being attached to something, and to be connected with other human beings.

How does this apply?:
From deciding when and where to grab a bite to eat, to years later, the bond a meal can create, transcends time. Good or bad, because of how a restaurant experience weaves into this need, it can stay with us, oftentimes forever. It’s where we find a sacred element within the art of the moment. In our modern, busy life, with so many cultures and belief systems intermingled with our families and friends, the center of our spiritual and emotional traditions have moved from houses of worship to the restaurant dining room. From grander events such as weddings to all forms of celebrations to a quick escape from the challenges of daily life, the restaurant is the new place where we break bread, where we replenish, and continue forward to the next milestone.

Core Human Need #5: Growth

This brings us to Growth: the need for personal expansion. This is emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.

How does this apply?:
Think about this. The reason you’re reading this is because of your needs, one of them being the growth of a business. The world we inhabit is always a reflection of our inner world’s relationship with the outer world. It’s why we have a saying like “give to receive”. We know we want to grow, but sooner or later realize it can’t be done solely on own power. But we have the power to help other people grow. When they grow, they will instinctively help us grow. When a person writes a restaurant review, they’re not only exercising an intellectual need to grow, but also needs #3 and #4 and #6. Think about that! The act of just one online review taps into 66% of our basic needs. If we’re not on the positive side of that review, it’s devastating.

Core Human Need #6: Contribution

Contribution is the need to give beyond ourselves, to serve others, to care for them.

How does this apply?:
How often do we see people fight over “picking up the check”? This is a desire to fulfill this need (along with #3). What an expression of caring for another by paying for their sustenance. What about when we recommend a restaurant to somebody who has dietary needs. Do we not take a caring interest in their limited dining out options by keeping an out eye for places a loved one might enjoy?

What’s amazing is the modern day restaurant experience hits all these needs at once. Each of these six needs is a trigger point for communication with our most powerful human emotions. What’s equally amazing is how dynamic and simple these needs are. They’re dynamic because in the context of a restaurant, there’s two relationships going on a at once: Between the guests and restaurant itself, and between the guests themselves, whether limited to those seated together at a single table, or broader in the form of ambiance, of social interaction at the bar, or between the tables themselves.

Because they’re human needs, we don’t need money or high levels of education to meet these needs.

So next time you’re in a “dead” restaurant, put this filter of needs on and consider what’s missing the mark. Each need not met elicits a negative emotion. And by that, remember, no emotion, to us, is a negative force against our goal of creating an expanding business.

Restaurants that are wildly successful, are connecting with these needs. Next time you’re in a restaurant that feels rewarding, try to see how many of these needs they’re connecting with, and how long it takes for that to happen.

If at anytime you forget that’s what you were there to do in the first place, then that, dear reader, is what it’s all about.

This post is a counterpart to our post on core human emotions.

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

The Six Automatic Restaurant Success Triggers 2018-03-19 12:08:01