Real EstateStaff

Is Your Restaurant Leveraging the “Experience Economy”?

I recently quoted Amy Ciana from A study of how lighting can affect a guest’s dining experience. “The U.S. has entered an experience economy in which a customer no longer solely wants a product or a good but also an overall experience accompanying the service that is provided.”

And then I spent a Friday evening taste-testing at various restaurants in the Chicago area.

It seemed that one too many were clamoring for my attention in an attempt to create an “experience” for me. From the singing waiters to the pretentious wait staff that had obviously been trained to show their pearly whites and tell a joke or two, even if it went against their basic natures, I found myself feeling slightly overwhelmed as the night descended. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, or even what was missing, until I found it.

It was an authentic Italian bistro off the main grid. To be honest, I’d grown a little jaded and didn’t really expect much from my last stop of the evening. And, to be more honest, I’m not sure if I can even put into words what it was that made me say, “This is it. This is my Friday night gathering spot.”

Maybe it was the lush garden patio with the twinkling lights laced through the trees, or the surprisingly full-bodied Chianti that our friendly waitress took the time to recommend. Or possibly the simple pine nuts and parmesan curls atop the arugula. What I do know is that I felt the stress of the weekday melting away and the start of a promise of a wonderful weekend.

According to a study conducted by Preoday, a digital ordering technology provider, approximately 54 percent of restaurant and bar professionals believe consumers are looking for a unique experience. (That explains the singing waiters). Surprisingly, only 21 percent of consumers considered this in their choice of restaurants while only 2 percent said it was the main reason they picked a specific eatery.

Now, think about one of your favorite meals. What stood out? The food, the service, or the ambiance? When I think about last Friday night, I realize it was all of the above, plus the company of a good friend. The restaurant had somehow managed to pull all the essentials together into a beautiful cohesive whole that gave us the space to relax and enjoy each other’s presence.

No fancy gadgets.

Deloitte surveyed 2,000 diners on several preferences including what prompted them to return to an establishment. The fundamentals still played a large percentage: good food and a friendly staff. With so many restaurants getting this right, it’s no wonder that some are turning to “unique” experiences in order to entice new guests and create loyal patrons.

This same survey found that out of five “experiential elements,” the one that came out on top was the desire to be engaged. This was defined as a restaurant staff that interacted with their guest in a friendly, authentic way. That sounds very much like my experience at my new found favorite venue.

The other runner ups were customization, listening and anticipating their needs, personalization and being remembered. In my world, that’s customer service 101.


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