Recent reports in the media suggest that the restaurant sector is seeing an increase in administrations and closures.
Certainly there are always challenges for operators; how to fill their restaurants and make ends meet. To some extent this is part of an ongoing cycle. The restaurant sector has been buoyant for many years and as such many new players have entered the market, flooding customers with choice. Subsequently, through natural selection, some restaurants will fail and drop by the wayside, leaving their stronger more focused competitors to fight another day.
There are also currently other factors which are compounding the normal status quo. Terrorist attacks are making some customers more cautious, keeping them away from major towns and cities and the ‘Brexit effect’ which is impacting on staffing.
This fierce level of competition combined with the willingness for most people to ‘eat out’, is not a new phenomenon, it draws some similarities with the gym and health club market of about 10 years ago. Back then, everyone had got their head around the benefits of going to the gym and gyms were widely available in many different formats, segmenting the market by customers as well as locations, delivering; city centre gyms, ladies only establishments as well as the more traditional health clubs to name but a few. But this maturation and some would argue saturation of the market, meant that all those gyms had to work out how to retain their customers; developing loyalty in a fiercely competitive environment, without just dropping the membership price, which can inevitably just be a race to the bottom.
So bringing the focus back to restaurants and avoiding stating the obvious about developing loyalty through ensuring that guests experience both great food and service, how do we retain customers without taking the additional unsustainable move of reducing price?
Well, happy and relaxed customers stay longer, spending more and they return, telling their friends about the great experience they have had. So how do we attain this Holy Grail?
Try closing your eyes…
Sit in your restaurant during different stages of the service and see if you find it a continuously pleasurable experience. Some restaurants can look stunning, but these great visual designs can be quite hard on the ear due to the acoustic soundscape they create. As a primary ‘fight or flight’ sense, your hearing could be telling your customers to leave long before you have even wowed them with the delights of your main courses …
Conversely, silence is not always golden! If you don’t have any sound, especially as you open up, your restaurant can feel intimidating, like entering a vast unfamiliar library. It’s always best to have some warm calm music running in the background to subconsciously make your venue appear more welcoming, as well as having the beneficial effect of masking the sound of your staff moving around.
Notice how your operational noises affect your dining space. Open kitchens are great in creating an atmosphere, but chefs are often less than quiet! Chinking plates and pilling up cutlery all make noises that can surprise guests and leave them on edge during their dining experience. Mobile phones, even your own restaurant phone ringing at an inappropriate volume in the wrong point of the service, can quickly take a customer back to the work environment they have often come to escape, certainly not enhancing their overall dining experience!
As your venue hopefully fills up, natural conversation should begin to disseminate throughout your restaurant, drowning out most other sounds. However, if you are still finding that you can hear noise from your kitchen, furniture, staff, or phones above this, then you still have a sound problem which you need to address.
Often customers will walk out of restaurants having experienced great food & service but they will not feel satisfied or even fully understand why they don’t feel great about the dining they have just experienced. This can often be due to their audio experience. They could be having an internal conflict between their taste buds which are in heaven and their ‘fight and flight’ instinct which is on edge from aggressive or non relaxing sounds which are causing them to feel unsettled.
So getting the soundscape of your restaurant right, can often be the missing piece of the jigsaw in delivering great customer experiences. If you want to beat the competition and ensure that your customers relax, stay longer and return, then ensure that you think holistically about all aspects of their dining experience and really ‘listen’ to the needs of your customers.
For more information, or to discuss an AV issue that might be affecting you, please contact us.