ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Why Clients Go to Your Restaurant.
By Jose L. Riesco ~ Riesco Consulting and Marketing.
Sunday, 18th May 2008
There are two basic motivators that propel us to purchase goods: 1. We need them, 2. We want them.

Groceries, toothpaste and toilet paper are good examples of items that we need (and most people don't dispute their necessity). However, most of our purchases aren't made because we need them. They don't fit in the first category. We really only need just a few essentials, like clothing to protect our bodies, a basic amount of food to maintain energy, and a shelter to protect us against the elements. In most modern civilizations, we also need reliable transportation vehicle (not necessarily expensive).

These are the items we need to survive in today's world.

But, the reality is that we spend quite a lot of money buying garments that makes us look good, a big house or a fancy car to impress our friends or gadgets and other accessories that gives us pleasure to use and display. These purchases fall into the second category. They are "wants" not "needs".

When people come to your restaurant, that visit fits into the second category.

They don't go to your place because they need to eat. To feed the body, they could eat at home, bring a meal with them, or just buy food at the local convenience store.

Always remember that your clients go to your restaurant looking for an experience, a sensorial experience.

Restaurants play a very important social role in the lives of your clients. They are a gathering place where people go to be surrounded by other people: friends, family, a date, coworkers, etc.

We humans are social animals and enjoy each other's company, even the company of strangers that we've never seen before and probably will never see again.

This is why bars, clubs and restaurants provide such an important social component.

Did this ever happen to you: you're hungry, looking for a place to eat and there are two restaurants (both you've never experienced) near each other? One of them was almost full, with lots of people and action; the other one looked nice, and the menu and prices were reasonable, but it was empty.

Which one would you choose? I guarantee you that 90% of the time; you will choose the busy restaurant (unless you are out with a big party whereby you are bringing the social component with you). You could reasonably assume that the busy place is probably busy for a reason, and perhaps they have better food.

The reality is that people go to restaurants looking forward to having a good time; more than that, they're looking forward to sharing some good moments with the people they are dining with.

When potential clients walk through your door, they don't come just to be fed and quench their thirst. They come expecting to have a great time, to share good food, good drinks and good memories with their loved ones, their friends, their families, perhaps their date...

Your job as a restaurant owner is to provide them with that great experience that they so much look forward to and deserve.

Try this exercise: Every time people walk into your place, try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to guess what's in their minds. Why are they coming to your restaurant? Do they come with friends? Do they come with relatives? With other loved ones?

Each client is different, and has different reasons for coming to your restaurant. If you can't guess what they are...; just ask them!

Ask your clients if there is a special event that they come to celebrate. Ask them if they have been in your place before (if you don't recognize them), greet them sincerely, the same way that you'll greet a friend. Make them feel welcome to your place. Make their experience wonderful right from the beginning.

One word of advice here: Please don't fake this. If you don't feel like greeting your clients a particular day, either because you are having a tough day or because you are just tired or not in the mood, then ask somebody else in your staff to do it. People are really good at identifying false feelings and fake smiles. It will backfire on you.

Once your clients feel welcome, they will instinctively think that they made the right choice by coming to your place.

But, what if your place is full? (Hey, it happens sometimes ☺.) If you have this problem, just be honest with them and tell them the truth about the waiting time. I have never gone to a restaurant where I was told that I had to wait around 20 minutes, later realizing that it wasn't true, and I left pissed after 45 or 50 minutes of waiting.

It is better to apologize to them, tell them that the wait could be up to one hour (or any reasonable estimate based on your experience) and suggest them to go out for a drink and come back (you should have a table for them guaranteed if they are willing to do this), or just give them a business card and politely recommend to them that they make a reservation the next time that they want to come on a busy day.

I can assure you that they will be back; if your place is full and you handle the situation truthfully.

If they decide to stay and wait, offer them a complimentary beverage to make their wait more acceptable.

Once they are seated, don't wait to offer them something (drinks, bread, a little appetizer, etc.). People often get grumpy when they are hungry or tired (and specially when they are both!).

Check on them once in a while, but not too much. Especially don't interrupt them if they are engaged in an animated conversation. You and your restaurant are there to make their experience great, not to become the center of their conversation or to stroke your ego by getting compliments from them about you or your place.

Always address quickly and decisively any problem that arises with the food or the service, even if your guests are not right, and you feel that they are complaining unjustly. Think about these guests as your clients, your most important reason for doing business. Your job is to please them and make sure that their experience is the best it can be.

Everybody is unreasonable sometimes. You probably have been, so it's likely that you will find situations where your clients will be as well. Don't take it personally.

Think of the benefits of making your clients happy, even at the expense of the profit from their meal. Being understanding and taking quick action will compensate you 100-fold versus having a disgruntled customer that not only won't come back to your place, but will tell all his friends, family members, their colleagues and - nowadays - thousands of other people giving you bad reviews on many restaurant review places.

A bad review on any of these places can damage your reputation and your place many more times than the cost of the food and drinks, if you refund your guests to make them happy.

Surveys indicate that people make decisions based on other people's recommendations more than listening to the opinion of experts and pundits. Like it or not, the customers are in control, and the best thing that you can do is to try to have them in your side - not against you.

By losing some upfront money to compensate an unhappy client, you not only win back this client (who may come back to your place) but you'll also avoid the negative reviews and badmouthing that will cause you many more future losses.

In my detailed Seminar (you can download the modules from www.myrestaurantmarketing.com and review each one out totally free for 30 days before you need to pay a penny), I dedicate the first 3 modules to your clients and why you should change your focus from being cuisine- and chef-centric into a client-centric business. Leave your ego at the door. It won't pay your bills.

Your clients are the ones who give you the money, your revenue. You can have the best chef in the world, the best food, and the fanciest place; but if you don't attract clients, make them happy and bring them in over and over, nothing else matters.

However, if you provide your clients with what they are looking for; if you can adapt to serve their needs and their wishes; if you can make their experience in your place memorable; you will become a very successful restaurant businessman.

Your clients will love you unconditionally, and will come back again and again, and recommend your place to everybody they know. I guarantee you.

Don't forget to check my website Restaurant Marketing Strategies. I have new blogs with interesting information.

Please feel free to email me at jose@riescoconsulting.com with any ideas, suggestions or feedback that you have regarding this newsletter.

Happy Sailing!
Jose L. Riesco© Riesco Consulting and Marketing.Jose L Riesco
You can participate in the forums in my web site at Restaurant Marketing Strategies or email me at
jose@riescoconsulting.com www.myrestaurantmarketing.com
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