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5 Sure-Fire Suggestions - Foodservice at its Finest

When was the last time you dined out, experienced remarkable service, incredible food, and left the restaurant feeling buoyed, impressed, delighted, and overwhelmingly satisfied? In this day and age, apart from those establishments employing celebrated chefs such as Thomas Keller, Barbara Lynch, Gary Danko, Dan Barber and Susan Feniger, finding remarkable culinary experiences in a sea of ordinary is difficult.

While you don't have to be a superstar, these are 5 sure-fire suggestions that can easily improve restaurant performance and enhance customer satisfaction:

1. Be consistent.   If you have any doubts about this, just consider McDonalds (one of the top 10 brands in the world, valued at over $43 billion). No matter where you are in the world, and aside from culturally appropriate menu adjustments, it's pretty much the same trusted experience from place to place.

While your operation may be considerably smaller in size, revenue, and geographic reach, you still want to clearly communicate an offer, then deliver it, in a manner that is consistent and trustworthy, time after time.

2. Deliver meaningful human encounters.   From the moment patrons walk in the door until they leave, the interaction with hosts, bartenders, servers, bar-backs, bussers, and cashiers should be warm, engaging, authentic and sincere. Scripted engagements, while efficient and accurate, can be perceived as cold, meaningless and off-putting. With just a little bit of training, supervision, and refresher sessions from time to time, your staff will be adored by patrons and quickly become one of the best reasons, other than the food, for repeat visits.

3. Tell a great story.   Consumers are becoming increasingly attracted to, and expect, stories that are engaging, authentic, and revealing. As such, let your customers know about the farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and other noteworthy food producers you rely upon. Without a doubt, every ingredient that goes into the foods you prepare has an intriguing story. If you are partnered with a special cause or non-profit, let people know about these special interests as well.

When you offer insights, perspectives and experiences that exceed expectations, and serve great food to boot, you've got a winning combination that is sure to please.

Highlight your staff too. No doubt a few of them have interesting backgrounds, engaging stories, or even celebrations (culinary achievement, wrote a book, completed a marathon, had a new baby, etc.) that can be shared with your patrons. This is good for both staff morale and customer engagement. Just make sure you don't take up too much of your customer's time or unwittingly intrude on their meal.

4. Be creative.   Demonstrating creativity can be achieved in many ways. Obviously, a creative touch in the kitchen goes a long way. This is, in part, what molecular gastronomy did for a small handful of intrepid chefs. While you don't need to keep liquid nitrogen in the kitchen to impress your patrons, a menu that offers a little bit of culinary adventure is always a good idea.

Looking beyond food, having an inviting entrance, well appointed and maintained interiors, expertly written and designed menus, interesting serving pieces, and even distinctive staff uniforms can transform the generic into the sublime.

5. Create a brand.   When you create a strong brand, you are simply creating an enviable reputation. From interactive encounters, making reservations, and critical reviews to level of service, quality of food, and even the cleanliness of your bathrooms, everything adds up to form your reputation... and your brand.

While all of these elements may seem obvious, there's an art to making it happen. Should your talent or interests fall into one area but not the others, find a consultant, designer, agency, mentor or other such provider that can help you put everything together.

When you think of great and/or enduring foodservice experiences, whether it's McDonalds, Acme Oyster House, The French Laundry, Katz's Delicatessen, Topolobampo, or Shake Shack, these are some of the most obvious traits that each has employed to create viable, sustainable, noteworthy, and satisfying foodservice experiences.

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