Today’s blog is focused on the quality of your food and the product you serve in your restaurant. The best tool to manage change in your restaurant is The Six Pillars of Success. Taking a little time to study each pillar helps owners focus. Hopefully it is helpful to you, and you do not get overwhelmed. With reflection comes improvement. It works for the team and guests. The Six Pillars, briefly, are strategy, financial stability, operations, product, distribution, and customer experience. This blogpost is centered on product.
Are you asking “what does THAT mean? We serve great meal”. Here is how we get to the heart of your product. Answer the questions: What’s your ambiance, What’s on the plate, and Who is Serving your menu.
WHAT’S YOUR AMBIANCE?
When a guest walks in to your restaurant, cafe or bar they pick up a vibe immediately. Like a blind date, first impressions are huge. It should be aligned with what you intended your guest to feel. That creates a feeling that is comforting for them for whatever reason. Whether you have the good fortune to have an ocean view or not does not matter if the guest doesn't feel what you intended. Here are a few questions and answers to get you to face and solve what’s working or not working.
When a guest walks in do they feel warmth? Warmth of a friendly welcome, an engaged staff, and a room that is attractive. This is one of the many aspects of the term, “culture”. You feel the culture of a place immediately. In the words of Erin Moran, at Danny Meyers’ Union Square Hospitality Group, “A restaurant has culture. There is good and bad culture.” Good culture doesn’t just happen. It takes serious intention, and constant delivery.
EXAMPLE: Last month I walked into a place with a friend, because they said they served breakfast. My spiny sense kicked in as soon as I walked in: The attractive Scanda-design gave us reassurance. That evaporated 20 seconds later when the server arrived, still chewing on her breakfast when she greet us at the door. What followed did not improve our experience: not able to make an espresso, because the beans were not in her grinder. She was in no hurry to solve that problem. The menu had three items, which were only pastries. They were not on display. Before this became worse, we got up an fled.
WHAT’S ON YOUR PLATE?
What does your guest sees on your menu? Are you serving a quality product? Are you using fresh and local ingredients. Is that clear or obscured on your menu?
When we are talking about product, it doesn’t mean just one item, it means all the items collectively. When a guest reads your menu, they form expectations. Expectations should be met or exceeded. When the plate arrives is the value correct? Does the value compare to your neighbors, and compare to what people pay for your type of establishment in your city. You are, once again, creating the culture of your place according to what’s on your plate.
EXAMPLE: In a bar, you don’t necessarily have to serve fresh salad. As a bar owner your goal is to sell more french fries with that beer, or amazing Happy Hour items. As long as it matches the expectation of what a guest expects from a bar.
WHO IS SERVING IT AND HOW?
Does your staff serve according to your vision? Or do you find they are serving the way they did at their last job, with no passion for your restaurant. If it's the latter, consider, you aren't training well enough. If you and your team are meeting your expectation, then it's because you have communicated your vision to your staff, and they are becoming brand ambassadors for you
The product is not complete unless it’s served as part of that overall experience and vision. That does not “just happen”. It is a calculated plan. Your staff need to be trained on your vision, and by your example. It’s a risk to your business to not correctly train them.
EXAMPLE: This past week I went into a cocktail bar, that was based on their vision of a group of journalists. The owners conjured their vision onto the pages of the menu. The cocktails and the food suited that vision with its jazz/art deco/candle lit room. The food was a good complement to the overall vibe—not too fussy, not too dull, not too much meat, not too vegan.
IN CONCLUSION... Being mindful of what your serve, how it appears, and your servers technique are all part of making sure that the product you serve meets and exceeds your guests' expectation! In starts with the plate you serve, in the ambiance you create, and it concludes with your team and the server who delivers to the guests' table.