When I look back over the many restaurants I’ve dined in across the nation, I’m surprised that the first one that jumps into my mind isn’t really that memorable in terms of food or ambiance. I love dining on patios with flowering plants and twinkling lights in the summer—nope, it didn’t even have a patio. I enjoy fresh unique food with crispy vegetables topped with a spicy, ethnic sauce. No—this was a restaurant called The Island that specialized in burgers. Hm. View of the ocean? No—it was on a busy street in Marina del Rey.
So, what was it about this restaurant that left such a memorable mark?
It was the people.
From the minute you entered the establishment, until the moment you left, the staff was smiling and laughing and treating you as if you were the winner of The Customer of the Year award. Of course, you only had to look around to see that they treated every guest that way. Just walking in those doors tended to lighten your spirit. My daughter was so enamored by their general attitude that she ended up working there for a summer.
I’ve seen the best and the worst in terms of a restaurant’s culture. This particular business ran like a cohesive whole—a symbiotic union where employees lend a hand to each other in order to help create a close-knit, successful environment where guests were well tended and treated with care. Then there are those businesses (we won’t mention any names) that you can feel the tension in—the parasitic, underhanded, “that should have been my table—not yours” kind of environment that slowly wears down not only the employees, but the guests as well.
Quantum Physics and the Restaurant Industry
All of us are made up of atoms. In fact, did you know that there can be as many as 100 trillion atoms in just one of our cells? Mind Boggling. I know this seems totally off the subject, but I really am leading up to something--promise.
Quantum physics tells us that our atoms are virtually just waves of energy that continuously give off and absorb light. And each of these atoms are vibrating at a certain frequency. What happens when my atomic energy waves meet your atomic energy waves is the stuff of legends. And it’s also why we can walk into a room and feel the tension or the harmony. Our little wave particles are blasted with it and either repulsed or attracted.
If I’m a glass-half-empty kind of person that sees the world as a volatile mass of humans with neurotic tendencies, I probably won’t even notice a restaurant’s demented culture. After all, I’m in sync. On the other hand, if I’m a glass-half-full kind of person that sees the good before claiming the bad, I’ll probably make the visit a short one and never walk into the establishment again. My atoms have been repulsed.
Needless to say, we all know which type of guest we prefer to walk through our restaurant doors.
Creating a Successful Restaurant Culture
So, just how do we create a successful restaurant culture that attracts happy, charitable guests who become long-term customers?
It starts at the top.
This means that, if you’re just getting into the restaurant business, make sure that you’ve got your inner ducks in a row and your atoms are happy little sparks of energy that draw in other happy little sparks of energy. If you’re starting off filled with tension, fear, and angst, chances are your employees will resonate with the same inner demons, and it’s also a good clue that you’re getting into the wrong business!
If, on the other hand, you are happy and excited and can’t wait to hit the ground running, you’ll inevitably draw in an enthusiastic staff that are on top of their game.
Researchers from Harvard found that increasing repeat visits by 5 percent actually increased profits by 25 to 95 percent. Amazing! When you consider that retaining your current customers is far less expensive than obtaining new ones (estimates range from 5 to 7 times more costly), it becomes evident that your success depends largely on those customers that become brand-loyal guests.
While you’ll find many statistics on the importance of a loyalty program, studies suggest that even more important than offering incentives for repeat visits is to get your customers to feel engaged. Forrester Research reported that a strong emotional connection is one of the biggest drivers of loyalty—more important than even ease or effectiveness.
Know your customer’s names, treat them with kindness, and get your staff to do the same. Then create an environment where a happy attitude is rewarded and you’ll find you’ve won the grand prize—a successful business that is a joy to be in.