When Does the Restaurant Customer Experience Begin and End?

A few years ago, I would have told you it begins the minute a customer steps into your restaurant. But I’ve come to find that’s simply not the case. 

Where do you think the customer experience begins?

This is a question I’ve asked of every class of management trainees and I get a different consensus every time. You probably think the guest experience begins the minute the guest sets foot in your restaurant.

But what if I was to tell you it starts way before that. What if I told you the way a customer experiences your restaurant (or any business) begins long before they step over your threshold?

Online marketing plan

It’s nearly impossible to open a restaurant these days without having a website. Before anyone sets foot in your restaurant you need to create a way for customers to know what your establishment is about, why it exists, and what they can expect when they visit you.

This should be a significant part of your business plan and a part of your startup budget. And remember, part of your monthly budget should be set aside to make sure you can follow (and stick to) your online marketing plan.

With an online presence and a well thought out marketing plan, you can begin building interest in your restaurant months before you actually open.

You probably think the guest experience begins the minute the guest sets foot in your restaurant.

But what if I was to tell you it starts way before that.

Social Media

Many restauranteurs take social media for granted. But you absolutely need to be where your customers are…and they’re all on social media. Everyone’s heard stories of how a restaurant’s reputation was made or broken online. Use the power of social media to your advantage. All of the big chains are.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you “aren’t good at” social media, or that you “don’t have the time” for it.

If you take pride in your business, are not afraid to talk to customers face to face, and love to tell people about what you do, then you’re already a social media expert. Speak to your customers and potential customers online in the same voice you would talk to them if you were face to face with them.

Use social media as a means of communicating directly with customers and potential customers.

Customer Arrival

Don’t forget the actual first impression a customer has when arriving at your restaurant. One of the best pieces of advice a mentor passed on early in my career was that the customer forms their opinion before even walking in the door.

Back then, there was no such thing as social media. What he meant was keep your building looking attractive and bright; make sure your sign is easy to see; make sure your parking lot is clean and well organized. All of these are basic practices every business owner should do on a regular basis.

So remember, the customer experience actually starts from the moment they find out about your restaurant. Make sure you have a great marketing plan, a great social media personality, and that you’re fully prepared for a spectacular opening and experience. Customers will take notice. 

If you have questions or need more detail on this topic or any topics on Serviceable, contact me here.

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