5 First Impressions That Can Make or Break Your Business

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This saying may seem old-fashioned to some, but it’s never truer than in the restaurant business. First impressions are key in making customers happy and willing to come back a second time. If you fall short on your first impressions, you may never get that customer back.

Take a good look around your restaurant with a fresh eye to evaluate these important first looks a customer may see when he walks in your door. If you’re afraid that you’re too close to the problem, ask a friend or relative to do the walk-through for you. Ask him to give you a critical view without any sugar coating. You may be surprised at the things you overlook every day because they have blended into the background.

1. Your lobby. Start at the top and work your way down. Is the ceiling clean? Are the lighting fixtures free of dust and dead insects? Check the upper corners of the walls and the door hinges for dust and cobwebs. Make sure there are no fingerprints on the walls or windows and check the door inside and out. Get that floor deck-scrubbed and keep it clean and sparkling with frequent touch-ups.

2. Your host staff. If you have a host or hostess, make sure they are the best at customer service. A smile and an easy manner go a long way toward making a customer feel at home. Put your host in a tidy outfit or allow him to simply wear black slacks and a white dress shirt with a tie. Check to make sure his attitude is professional yet friendly.

3. Your tables. Break down your tables and booths on a weekly basis to do a complete deep cleaning of the area. In between seatings make sure the entire table area is clean. Scrub the table tops and booths, sweep the floor underneath and make sure all the condiment holders on the table are filled.

4. Your menus. Whether you have paper menus or large books with leatherette covers, make sure your menu is neat and unmarked when you place it in the customer’s hand. Scrub menu folders regularly, print fresh paper menus on a regular basis and take a look at your entire menu design to see if it needs updating to something more modern.

5. Your wait staff. While the way your wait staff acts doesn’t really count as a first impression, the way they look certainly does. Custom uniforms may be too expensive for your restaurant right now, but that doesn’t mean that your crew can’t be uniform. Require all wait staff to wear black slacks, white shirts and ties, or matching t-shirts or another outfit that can be easily duplicated. Keep some spare shirts in your office in case of spills or other accidents to keep your crew looking fresh all day.

Impressing a new customer is critical if you want to turn him into a regular. Keep on top of all the smallest details that she will see when she walks in and you’ll set her up to expect an enjoyable meal. And that can add real dollars to your bottom line.