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Restaurants – How to customer?

The need, intent & the definition.

From time immemorial food establishments are a part of human society. Civilisation, circumstances and need for business evolved the food business to its present reality.

Restaurant business is as tricky as it gets. One may think that good food and some money to set up a place to rest one-two many bottoms can just be the business to do. Yes, but maybe you are some centuries late to the party.

Unlike the rainbow wonderland a restaurant business seems to an outsider – it’s a complete rock or bust concert. Either you create a legacy or you end up on the list of “10 best copy paste restaurants” which is running on resources like – Human curiosity and population?


“A midnight walk on the streets of Koramangala which is known to host the largest number of Restaurants and pubs in Bangalore. An hour past 12 am, it turns into the calmest of places in the Silicon Valley. That is when I see 6 restaurants consequently next to each other. What was so special about these 6 restaurants? Well, they were the most fancy, ambient and aesthetic restaurants. But at that hour they looked – plain dead – like I sneaked a peak at an overpaid actor with looks and no substance while they were sleeping”

The epiphany -

We judge the money’s worth by the overall experience we accumulate from a place – in this case – the money we spend t a restaurant. For the lack of a better word, we call it customer experience. A great customer experience is when the food is good, the service is quick, the lighting is ambient, if one could get good pictures or cherry on top, the server could sing, I mean, you get the gist, right?

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is merely a fond memory the customer makes when he dines at a restaurant. How great the overall impact the restaurant had on the customer is what determines if the restaurant deserves a brownie point or not.

Realistically, by the virtue of human error, a restaurant is bound to make good memories for some and bad for some others. So, a great experience to all is a utopian ideology. As a restaurant you must identify which guest has the highest probability of walking out with an unforgettable customer experience.

“It was my first day at “Pepper crab”, the Singaporean speciality cuisine restaurant in Dubai. It was a high end fine-dine restaurant, a special place – people were intense, they had to, because they were selling food for prices which could be someone’s salary in India, but still they were the highest revenue generating restaurant in its category and 80% of the guests were usually repeat customers – never an empty seat. The first thing I was taught was not about food, wine to pair, or menu to decipher but it was to make a passive customer a promoter

There are essentially 3 types of customers that you receive:

1) Promoters

2) Passives

3) Detractors

On a scale of 1 to 10

|1-4 would be a detractor| 5-8 would be a passive|9-10 would be a promoter|


Those guests/customers who are completely head over heels for your restaurant. They are your unpaid marketing team, they will make sure their family and friends give you a visit – word of mouth, precisely.


Those guest/customers who are casual and do not have any opinion of your restaurant. They define the majority of the population – you did not impact them enough for them to have a negative or positive opinion of you. They are neutral.


Guest/Customers who wants the restaurant owner to lick their boots and apologise for the lack of salt in a dish. They have strong negative opinions for your restaurant and would love to drag you through the mud.

Now, as a restaurant whom do we target or engage with the most?

The passives.

Passives account for the majority of customers a restaurant receives and have the potential to become a detractor or a promoter. Turn them into a promoter - Pour in all the customer experience lectures you have ever heard to woo the passives.

Keep rewarding your promoters – they are the least demanding lot. Detractors are a lost case, anything and everything you do is a waste of efforts.

This classification is the base of customer experience and stands its ground even after the lockdown lifts and you go back to kickstart your dine-in operations. “Time waits for none – with time habits change, working of a business change and rules change”

Customer experience is what a restaurant should still strive for but with a complete overhaul of the current definition.

“Build goodwill with the food you serve and nobody would want your singing server anymore”

Innovation or the first movers’ advantage is not always the answer – you can sell the same food as others, just sell it better than them. “Be lean and mean”, roared Chef Natalie, the head chef for the steak house and Peruvian cuisine. It was when we were doing trials for the new menu after we re-opened the fine-dine steakhouse after half a year of renovation. “I do not want anything in the menu that I cannot make in my sleep, if there are 10 items in the menu, I want the guest to come back just to try out all the 10 items and keep on coming back!”, her voice was loud, clear and filled with intent. She wanted good food, every food out of the kitchen should tell a story, bare minimum wastage and make a happy customer – most importantly – a repeat customer.

“A week after the opening, we were sitting together with tired but happy faces – clinking that beautiful glass of Macallan 23. That night, the restaurant made a 6-figure sale in a mere 3 hrs of operation. A milestone.”

Customer experience with good food is the most grueling task and is easier said than done, but this will the groundwork for the legacy your restaurant builds in these changed times. The entire definition of customer experience has now been overturned and squeezed down to the size of a plate. Yes, a plate with good food on it.

Be it delivery, take away or dine-in, it is not your staff, not the photo studio lighting, not your restaurants design but the food is what your restaurants USP is. If that was not the case until now and still you were faring well, remember, “time waits for none”.

To Do’s:

- Identify your restaurants intent (Why is your menu the way it is and for whom – your market)

- Identify your menu (what items in the menu are worth keeping based on sale, profit margin and your restaurants intent)

- Grind the recipes, reach the best of a recipe through continuous trials

- Invite bloggers for tasting session of your dishes with high profits but low sales (Puzzle dishes – refer BCG matrix)

- Standardise recipe of all your menu items

- Standardise portion size

- Identify your customers into promoters, passives and detractors – profile your guests.

A good product will inadvertently churn out loyal customers but making a good product and sustaining the quality is the challenge.

Make it all about food and customer – a lean menu, a defined customer and unfaltering quality is the basis for your answer on HOW TO CUSTOMER!

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