Dining Out On Customer Experience

Have you ever had a really good experience dining out?


Perhaps it was at a restaurant that everyone had been talking about. Somewhere you were really looking forward to visiting.


It was easy to find their reservation page online and you were able to book a table for you and your friends without any confusion.


You arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early, because you were excited about the experience and the head waiter Marco welcomed you and offered to take you to the bar to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.


The bartender Julia was able to recommend a great sparkling wine for you, and when your tragic hipster friend Barney asked if she knew how to make Stan Getz’s favourite cocktail she apologised but offered to make it if he gave her instructions. She turned out to be so friendly and fun that when the waiter came ten minutes later to lead you to the table you actually asked Julia if she wanted to join you!


Of course the food was great. You had read a slew of wonderful reviews before you booked so you knew what you were getting. The chef doesn’t disappoint.


To top off the night, just as your desserts were served, Julia appeared at your table with a tray of glasses and a bottle of liqueur. She invited you to finish your night with a final shot, on the house.


As you settled the bill, the restaurant’s owner came by the table to check that everything had been to your satisfaction. She thanked you for dining with them and let Barney know that Getz was her favourite saxophonist. “Let me know next time you’re coming,” she said. “I’ve got a killer Getz and Gilberto spotify playlist that I can play through the sound system!”


You and your friends went home with smiles on your faces and spent the day regaling your colleagues at work with stories about your night out.


The thing is, that experience could have been soured at any point along the way – changing the story that you and your friends told yourselves and others about the restaurant.


You can imagine some of the things that might not have gone as well, because you’ve had some of those experiences.

  • You called and left a message about making a reservation and were never phone back
  • Your table wasn’t ready when you arrived and you and your friends had to wait outside the restaurant in the cold for twenty minutes.
  • The bartender made your drinks as quickly and impersonally as possible so he could get back to talking to his friend sitting at the far end of the bar.
  • As desserts were being served the waiter reminded you that the restaurant was closing in ten minutes, a fact that was made obvious by chairs being put up on tables behind her.


None of the bullet points above are about the meal itself. Most restaurants pride themselves on the quality of their food. But the most wonderfully prepared meal can be spoiled by the experience the customer has before and after it.


When we consider the experience that people have interacting with us, too often we focus on the ‘main course’ at the expense of carefully designing the whole experience.


It’s worth examining each ‘touch point’ that our employers, colleagues, clients and loved ones have when they deal with us. When we don’t approach this mindfully we can spend all our energy on what we think is important and fail to see that we may have inadvertently disadvantaged ourselves before we can even get to that point.


Is your product, service or company really so compelling that people will put up with you not returning their phone calls, or consistently showing up late? Do you make people around you feel important or replaceable? Can you make a promise and keep it? Is there a way you can even go beyond your promise to surprise and delight?


Investing thought and care in designing your customer’s experience can repay you exponentially in goodwill, word of mouth and repeat business.

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