Understanding Restaurants: The Guest Perspective

They say that no two snowflakes are ever the same.  The number of possibilities in the formation of a snowflake leads to countless subtle differences.  While this may be true, there are certain generalizations we can make about snowflakes.  They are cold, white, and melt at temperatures above freezing.  Snowflakes can be unique while still sharing a number of characteristics.

Restaurant guests are also unique.  I would not say that no two of them are identical, but each of them comes to your table with unique desires.  While it is impossible to understand at first glance exactly what your guest is looking for, you can feel certain it falls into certain parameters.  Each guest balances three basic priorities to varying degrees.  Quality, service, and value are the three basic priorities of all guests.

The difficulty comes for servers in determining how the guest is prioritizing the three.  Ideally each guest would prefer that a fleet of servers bring a Kobe steak cooked perfectly to their home.  A masseuse would accompany them, after the meal the servers would clean their home and help their kids with their homework.  In the ideal world this would cost around a dollar and be available on a moments notice.  Clearly we cannot create this perfect mixture of quality, service, and value.  Instead guests must choose to balance these three priorities.

The Venn diagram above put the competing priorities in visual form.  The primary colors represent the three basic priorities.

Quality (red): This is the guest’s desire for a good meal.  Fresh, top quality, ingredients, expertly prepared, regardless of price.

Service (yellow):  This is the guest’s desire to be taken care of.  To never have to ask for a thing.  To have everything they could want at the exact moment they want it.

Value (blue):  This is the guest’s desire to spend very little money.  To receive a meal, without concern for service or quality, at the lowest price.

Rarely will a guest be concerned with only one of these things.  Consumers are more discerning and savvy.  Instead most people are looking for at least two of these concerns to be met.  This leads us to the interior of the diagram.

Quality and Service (orange):  This is the guest’s desire to have a great meal.  Exceptional food, impeccable service, and a premium price tag accordingly.  Guests who are willing to pay more will frequent these restaurants, but most people cannot afford to do this on a frequent basis.

Quality and Value (purple):  This is a guest’s desire for a good meal at a good price.  Service is secondary to the meal and the check.  Guests looking for this are looking for a night out of the kitchen, but the server is less important to the meal.

Service and Value (green):  These are met where a very generic meal is served.  The flavor and ingredients of the meal are secondary to the price of the meal and service provided.  Guests want friendly service at an affordable price, but are primarily eating for sustenance.

Quality, Service, and Value (white):  Ideally all restaurant companies like to think they offer this.  All guests will contend that they prefer all three.  In actuality, a restaurant must make compromises between the three and guests must choose which are the most important.  This is not to say that a happy medium cannot be struck between the three, but the balancing act inherently means that one must be sacrificed to a degree to achieve the others.

As servers, we must understand where the restaurant we work at falls into the spectrum.  If you work someplace where the emphasis is on service and value, then telling the guest about the premium steaks you serve is not particularly beneficial.  If service and quality are the emphasis, then telling the guest about your drink specials may actually detract from the experience.  If quality and value are the goals of your restaurant, then prepare to simply become a pleasant table turning machine.

This knowledge is also very helpful in understanding our guests.  The table that peruses the wine list to order the hundred-dollar bottle of Cabernet should not be pitched the hamburger.  The table that asks about the drink specials is probably not a target for the largest steak with a lobster tail added.  Guest’s selection of a restaurant and initial orders will help you understand what their priorities are.  Once you know this information, you can better design a dining experience to meet their expectations.

This serves as only a basic outline of guest priorities.  The intricacies are far more complex.  This post will be referred back to several times as a way to understand your guests.  There are subtle nuances to these needs and methods to change your guest’s initial priorities.  Stay tuned for more to come.

Tomorrow we switch it up a bit and look at the manager’s priorities.  Why do they do so many things that drive you nuts?  Why are they constantly making decisions in your worst interest?  Most importantly, how to looking at things through their perspective to get things accomplished. Come back tomorrow to gain a little better understanding of the boss.

Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips, the new book from the author of The Manager’s Office, teaches the skills of exceptional servers that will increase customer satisfaction and dramatically improve restaurant sales.  This book is more than a server training manual.  It is the secret to teaching your staff to enjoy selling and give your guests the experience that will create raving fans.  To learn more about the book, visit www.tips2book.com.  Use the coupon code “MANAGER” to save 20% at the checkout.


Submit to Best Restaurant Blogs

About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,