We talk often about the guest experience and how to craft one that’s remarkable and memorable. What memories are your bar or restaurant really creating?
Have you dropped the ball? Have you meet expectations? Have you made a positive impression on a guest?
In today’s oversaturated market you must be more conscious about every single interaction your brand has with a guest. Social media has turned everyone with a mobile device into a food critic and, sadly, that doesn’t look like it’s going to disappear.
While you can’t stop the internet trolls from going on their negative rants, you can take more control over your brand—particularly your culture—if you want to set yourself up to win the game.
A Tale of Two Restaurants
Recently, I had the chance to hit a couple highly rated restaurants during my travels and I have to say that the experiences were quite different.
The first restaurant is well established and a legend. It had been in the family for over 87 years before the current owner, a third-generation restaurateur who was a commercial pilot before being asked by his family to help out, took the helm for a couple years. A “couple years” eventually became twenty-three. Funny how life sometimes takes us down a different path than we expect.
The service was sharp, precise and friendly. The staff explained each dish and even served us. The owner offered a wine for each course and the hospitality ran free among the establishment. Any time a request was made, the answer was a resounding, “Of course we can!”
The experience is etched into my mind as one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Hospitality, when delivered with sincere authenticity, is unforgettable. It’s also appreciated and a dying art.
Swing and a Miss
The next evening we went to a hip and upcoming restaurant that was receiving a lot of buzz and recognition on social media. They were packed and blasting their music. We were greeted rather harshly and without a smile before being escorted to our table. Menus were handed out and no comforting (or promising) words of welcome were offered to take the edge off the slight anxiety that new guests often feel when visiting a new establishment. It wouldn’t kill any host or server to ask, “Is this your first time here?” and follow up with, “Awesome, you’re going to have a great time!” So much for small talk.
The server soon came over to take the order. Right away there was a sense of tension in the air when it came to asking about the menu.
“No, we can’t do that.”
“That’s the way the chef does it.”
“I’ll have to charge for that.”
“All the apps are good.”
“We don’t split plates.”
It was a far cry from the warm and welcoming feeling we had experienced the night before. After settling on a tasting menu, the food came out rather quickly and was basically dropped off with no explanation. The next course came out so fast that we were struggling to eat fast enough to keep up.
While the food was good, the experience was a serious disappointment. Their culture was one of entitlement and resistance to accommodate the guests. While they received a lot of buzz on the internet, it was easy to see that the press had gone to their head. Believe me that this is not the first time that a restaurant or bar allowed media accolades to inflate their egos to a bursting point. The hardest part about climbing so high, so fast is that for many of these establishments the fall from their lofty position is devastating. Most don’t come back when they suffer such a fall from grace.
To avoid a brutal crash and burn, ask yourself the following about your bar or restaurant:
- Do you have a culture of can or can’t?
- Are you out to serve the guests or your own agenda?
- Do you embrace hospitality or are you just chasing fame and fortune?
You’re going to need to be honest with your answers to those questions because they say a lot about your ability for long-term success. Not all that glimmers is gold, as the saying goes. Culture is that secret sauce that transforms food and drink into a spectacular experience.
Branding is about how your guests see your bar, restaurant or nightclub—culture is how you see your business. Culture is an emotional connection you have with your brand. It’s who you are, what you stand for, what you believe, your mission, and your vision. Culture is cultivated by your standards and core values as the leader.
Not sure what your standards and core values are? Well, that is the best place to start!
Looking for more great advice like this? Take yourself and your brand to another level of operation and success by attending the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas. Register now to attend such informative sessions as “How to Herd Cats: 7 Secrets to Get the Restaurant/Bar You Want,” presented by the author of this article, Donald Burns. The schedule is loaded with invaluable sessions, workshops and keynotes you won’t want to miss, like Jon Taffer’s “Cut the BS Excuses that Hold You Back.”