What would you like for dinner? The very question throws open a lot of possibilities, and it requires that you give it thought. Even if you settle on a cuisine — Thai, for instance — are you going to try a noodle dish, or sticky rice? Pork or seafood? We could do this all night, couldn’t we?
In the restaurant business, you can always tell a professional server by their drink offer, or their dessert offer. An average server will open with, “What can I get you to drink?” A pro will ask you, “How does a Grey Goose martini sound?” The difference is vast. One is an open-ended stream; the other is a yes-or-no question. Even if you don’t want a Grey Goose martini (and that’s not my drink of choice), it usually jolts you into answering with the drink you do want, without that open-ended feeling.
By the way, is it any surprise I’d choose to hire Justin Levy and Colin Browning to work with me at New Marketing Labs. Justin owns a restaurant and Colin is an accomplished barbecue cook.
One factor in my professional career that I believe has given me the most success is something I learned from one of my first great bosses, Dave Johnson from NYNEX (now Verizon). Dave never wanted me to bring him a problem. He wanted me to bring him one or two recommended solutions to a problem.
As best as I can, this is something I practice all the time in business.
By learning reasonably early that recommending solutions was way better received than asking for answers, I started down a road that has, so far, been really darned successful. You can do the same thing. It only takes a little bit of thought each time.
Narrow Things Down
Menus. Restaurants have menus. Now, technically, a decent chef can cook plenty of things with the right ingredients and tools. But smart restaurants build menus around things they know they can successfully sell, around things they know their customer base likes, and around things that can set them apart from other local restaurants.
Do you have a menu? Is it small enough for your customers to pick from? If you were a server, would you have the right drink by name that would spark your guest’s interest?
Write a Great Menu
I went to a restaurant in Billings, Montana, that turns out to be a chain. Famous Dave’s is an award-winning barbecue restaurant, with a menu containing such writing as, “Georgia Chopped Pork: Smoked for up to 8 hours and chopped to order, our BBQ-slathered pork is juicier than a Georgia peach.”
What I like about everything on the menu (see it all here is that every choice seems like a good one, if that’s what you’re hungry for. A great menu, and by extension, an excellent server, makes you feel like you’ve selected exactly the right meal for the night.
Does your business communication do that?
A Neighborhood Feel
I wrote a little while back about my experience at Applebees. I’ve also written about cafe-shaped businesses. What I’m getting at is that the biggest opportunity these social media tools permits us is the choice to be a homey feeling restaurant, like a family kitchen, instead of a cold chain experience. It’s up to us to keep that feeling in mind.
Is your restaurant – or your online presence – inviting? Do you have room for people to gather around? Is your kitchen a showplace, or just a mechanized delivery system? If you’re the chef or the owner, do you circulate around the tables and talk to your guests? What are they enjoying? How can you better serve them?
And, what’s for dessert?
At dinner the other night (also in Billings, Montana, where my clients took me to four different amazing restaurants), the servers forgot to clear the dishes the moment we were done eating. This left a dozen or so people talking around the bones of our meals. It was uncomfortable. We all were aware. And it was one of those situations where it seemed every server in the restaurant vanished at once.
It’s a little thing, but it’s a big thing, and that came right before the bill, where we decide on the value of our server’s contributions.
In business, always finish strong. The dining experience doesn’t end with the delicious main course. It ends when the guests have left the restaurant and all the business in between the first lifting of a fork until the car door shuts is still yours to win.
Remember, we want them coming back.
And now that we’re done, may I ask, how was your dining experience?
Photo credit Nadya Peek