Word of mouth sells. Say what you want about SEO or the latest dietary trends – Uber Eats vs. Foodora? – whatever. The latest buzzword is never going to sell your business or restaurant as well as bona fide word of mouth.
So you need to ask yourself, when people talk about your restaurant or bar, what do they mention first?
You might be thinking of food, or location, and you’re pretty close.
But what is the first thing that they’re going to associate with your restaurant. What adjective is going to be attached to your restaurant?
“That trendy little place down the road”
“I went to a really fresh new Thai place”
“There’s a cozy new bar that’s opened up on King St”
The feel of your bar or café – its atmosphere – is the most important factor in determining how your business is described.
“It’s about giving customers the freedom to interpret a space in the way they want to. Let them decide what they’re looking at. If you push too hard, it feels forced and uncomfortable” says Oliver of Protech Hospitality Hub.
Here are five tips from Protech Hospitality that you can use to ensure that your business has an atmosphere that leaves people coming back for more:
- Light and atmosphere
- Ask yourself whether an open kitchen is right for you
- Din or dinner?
Natural light is almost always best, though sometimes there isn’t enough of that available, depending on time and location. Placing adjustable, thoughtfully designed lighting around a space can dramatically alter the vibe of a room. There’s nothing worse than not being able to see the food on your plate! While this might seem like an easy problem to rectify, it can be quite difficult to get right. Don’t be afraid to experiment and move things around to get things working exactly right.
Open kitchens are increasingly popular, and for a lot of businesses, they can be really great. But they’re not for everyone.
Restaurants which have very fast, busy and often messy kitchens, should try and keep the frenetic world of the kitchen away from their customers.
On the other hand, if you feel like your chef’s amazing work should be on display, they can add a lot of visual interest to a space. Some restaurateurs we’ve spoken to have remarked that open kitchens can make a venue popular for first dates – providing a welcome relief from slow conversations!
Speaking of conversations – Noise can be an absolute killer for many patrons. Overtly minimal designs often ignore the dampening effect which furniture and other large masses can have on sound waves. Designing your restaurant with noise as a consideration is integral to ensuring that a comfortable level of sound is maintained. Good Food has an excellent article available here https://www.goodfood.com.au/eat-out/news/din-and-dinner-are-our-restaurants-just-too-noisy-20130805-2r92e detailing how and why restaurants become too noisy.
I know this should be obvious, but the physical menu (I.e the thing you actually hand to the customer), is among the most important objects in your customer retention arsenal.
Think very careful about how you’re going to describe your food, as well as how you’re going to present it. Treading the line between poetic and ridiculous can be tough – the Huffington Post has collated a list of the most pretentious food terms of all time – but is worth it in the long run.
Consulting with an experienced designer will pay off in the long run. Even the finest restaurant can be let down by a poorly designed menu.
The people you employ are probably the single biggest factor in ensuring that your restaurant has the welcoming feeling that is necessary to ensure repeat custom. Good staff are hard to come by, so when they do show up, make sure to treat them with the value and respect that will keep them loyal. I’ve seen far too many restaurateurs who treat their staff poorly, then are surprised when they can’t find good staff.
Training is absolutely vital – having a basic code of conduct and uniform policies in place can do wonders in ensuring that the employee culture is up to scratch, but nothing beats proper supervision. Customer feedback is key here. Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t like complaining. Take complaints seriously (or ignore them at your own peril).