It’s the little things in life that make us happy but it’s also the little things in restaurants that turn one-time customers into a regular dining guests.
Every restaurant should implement as many special small touches as possible, to please guests in ways that go beyond the food, and to bring an element of the unexpected to their operation.
Tom Kelley and Steve Gostin, partners at Concept Branding Group in San Diego, offer the following tips for restaurants:
- Provide special sampling plates that come out from the chef as diners settle into their seats after ordering their first drink. It may be a bite-sized new appetizer, or a standard amuse bouche that changes each week. It may be a sample tasting of new lunch or dinner selections—again bite-sized, just to whet the appetite and a desire to return, and to make a guest feel special.
- Have your chef walk the front-of-the-house every night. He or she should spend 15 minutes walking around, shaking hands and getting feedback. This type of personalized outreach creates the essential emotional connection with guests.
- Offer selection of house made cookie nibbles brought with the check (as opposed to individually wrapped, bulk mints). Preparing some bite-sized cookies that can be baked off throughout the week adds that extra touch that makes guests fully realize that the dining experience truly is about them.
- Pay attention to your bathroom: Use a pleasant (somewhat neutral) soap in restrooms, and use a good brand. Avoid any wholesale club branded products, which send the wrong message of volume vs. quality.
- Check the restrooms every half hour especially during busy times (this often is overlooked during peak hours, but should be a must). Place a waste can by the restroom door, as people like to use their towel to open bathroom doors.
- Ensure you have super clean window and door glass (that’s the first thing a guest sees when thinking about dining with you), which are cleaned throughout the day.
- If you must use plastic insert menus (please reconsider!) be sure they are wiped with a fresh towel.
- Have non-food aromas be consistent throughout the restaurant—soap and lotion in the bathroom, as well as window, table and menu cleaner, etc. This is ideal so these scents don’t conflict with aromas from the kitchen. Any scent used to clean or freshen the air should be neutral or lemon-ey.
- Ensure there’s uniform use of black pens by all employees, rather than a selection of common pens. (There’s nothing worse than seeing a pharmaceutical branding pen with a guest check!)
- Convey your brand story on your menu so guests can instantly to make an emotional connection after being seated.
- Have wait staff that is available to every table, so guests needs can be quickly taken care of by anyone.
A final thought that Kelley and Gostin provide is that whatever you do, do it consistently. “Doing something one week, then letting a crisis interrupt these little extras, will be worse than never starting,” they advise. “Integrate these ideas into your menu and prep planning, so they are never forgotten and look at any costs as part of your marketing program. You’ve got a captive audience, market to them.”
Read more of Concept Branding’s tips on Twitter @ConceptBranding
By Amanda Baltazar