Consumers looking to dine out do not have any shortage of options. There are lots of restaurants out there. Some are chain restaurants, others are local franchises, still others are single restaurants owned and operated by the same family for years.
The thing is that not all restaurants are good. And even among those that are good, few are genuinely great. Restaurateurs from coast-to-coast are constantly looking for that one thing that will make their establishments truly great. Does that one thing exist? Absolutely. It is encapsulated in a single word: experience.
More Than Good Food
The word ‘experience’ expresses the idea that guests want to experience something truly unique; something truly enjoyable they cannot find anywhere else. A great restaurant experience is about more than just good food.
Ask regular cruise ship guests what they like most about cruising and you’ll hear a lot of things. Yet the one thing they will all have in common is their appreciation for the food. And yet, it is really not about the food at all.
If those same cruisers had to choose between identical meals served either on a ship or a shopping mall restaurant close to home, it’s a safe bet the majority of them would prefer the ship. Why? Because they love the cruising experience. Yes, the food is particularly good. But it is the experience that keeps them coming back.
What Makes for a Good Experience?
All of this begs the question of what constitutes a good experience. After all, it’s hard to replicate the cruise ship experience on land. The good news is that restaurant owners don’t have to mimic cruise ships. They can create an exceptional experience just about anywhere.
Here’s what constitutes a good restaurant experience:
1. Impeccable Service
It doesn’t matter whether you are talking a five-star restaurant or a roadside fast food joint, people want and expect impeccable service. They want to be treated as though they are kings and queens. They want to leave a restaurant feeling like the staff actually cared about making them happy.
Todd and Kristin Gardiner, owners of the Taqueria27 Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City, say that impeccable service is a mindset. It is a mindset of actually caring enough about your job that you genuinely care about the people you serve.
2. A Social Environment
Eating together is a social experience whether it is two people or 20. To facilitate the best experience, restaurateurs have to create a social environment. They have to create an environment that encourages people to linger, talk, and enjoy one another’s company.
A social environment is a clean and well-organized environment. It is one in which people at separate tables aren’t constantly bumping elbows. And believe it or not, it’s a relatively quiet environment. That some restaurants blast the music so loud that diners have to shout over one another is mind-boggling.
The Right Food
Finally, a good experience involves the right food. This doesn’t necessarily mean a specific cuisine or a particular way of cooking. It means that the food fits the environment. If you are running an Italian restaurant with a heavy focus on pizza, don’t sell fish fry. If you’re running a formal restaurant with a dress code, everything had better be fresh.
Winning the hearts and minds of diners rests squarely on giving them an experience they can’t find elsewhere. It is about providing an experience that lets them forget about everything else and just focus on dining in the company of friends and family. That is what separates great restaurants from all the rest.