The Surprising Things Guests See in Your Restaurant

It is amazing what a little perspective can mean in the restaurant business. Generally speaking, businesses that deal directly with the public must find a way to see the guestís perspective. A pilot should fly coach every now and then to remember the travelerís perspective. A writer has to work to think like a reader every now and then.

In much the same way, a restaurant operator must find a moment every now and then to sit down in a booth or table in his own building. The results can be shocking. It truly is amazing what guests can see when they eat in your restaurant. It is equally amazing that more operators donít try to see the guestís perspective from time to time.

How can I tell that restaurant operators donít tend to sit down in their own restaurants? Call it a hunch, or call it the dust on the partitions between booths. Sure, years of training have taught me to see the shortcomings of a restaurantís front-of-the-house, whether I want to or not. But guests see the same things. They just canít typically sum up the front-of-the-houseís flaws. Details being missed and poor attitudes being displayed usually manifest themselves in a sub-par experience, without the guest being able to put his finger on why.

The fact is that the guest sees way more than you want him to see. Itís worth it to take a moment once a week to try to see it yourself.

Your Service Staff

The perspective a guest has from sitting down is surprisingly revealing, especially when the guest is seated for an hour or two. The appearance and demeanor of the entire service staff usually stands out. That part of the server that is at eye level with a seated guest must be clean and presentable. A guestís eye is often drawn to a serverís apron and shirtóat and just above eye level.

Guests typically notice other servers too, and the way the servers communicate with each other and with the kitchen (if the kitchen is visible). It is surprising how many guests pay attention to the way servers communicate with each otherówhether they smile, work together, lean against a wall, or joke around. Perceptive guests notice how much fun the service staff appears to be having, and non-perceptive guests glean a more positive experience when the people around them enjoy what they are doing.

Your Restaurantís Dťcor

This may be the biggest gulf between the guest and management. It is normal to forget the impact your building makes on someone seeing it for the first time. The dťcor of your restaurant contributes massively to the overall guest experience. Most of your guests are very aware of the attention to detail and the uniformity of the design.

The cleanliness and maintenance of the restaurantís dťcor has to be a high priority. A great restaurant continues to look like it did the first day it opened for years to come. Most guests arenít savvy enough to articulate the impact a great interior design makes, but itís a huge contributor to a successful dining experience.

Dust and Dirt

It is the nature of many restaurants to have stale, uncirculated air that collects dust quickly. In most restaurants, thereís usually one door in and one door out, and no open windows for much of the year if at all. Guests notice the dust that accumulates, and it gets everywhere.

Try sitting down once at a booth and observe the dust nearby. Guests see it in places that you never will as a manager standing up during the course of a day. Sunlight can reveal new areas of dust at different times of the day. Sometimes, itís impossible not to notice.

What the Table Looks Like

You know the guest spends 98 % of his time in your restaurant at the table, but do you take the time to sit at one for the same length of time? Itís hard to plan that amount of time into the average workweek, but itís worth it. When your eyes are just a couple feet above table level, you see your building in a whole new light.