The Secret World of Your Diners
Siberia or the Promised Land?
By Brian Mitchell Principal, Mitchell Performance Systems | September 20, 2015
Co-authored by Evan Mitchell, Senior Consultant, Mitchell Performance Systems
According to the Spanish proverb "Love, pain, and money cannot be kept secret. They soon betray themselves." And who could argue? But closely observe an evening's happenings in any fine dining venue, in any city, any country, (in your own establishment) and that list would be sadly incomplete. You would want to add lust, gluttony, pride – in fact all of the deadly sins – along with style, taste, boorishness, timidity, loneliness, and pleasure (of course).
There's a secret world that waits to come alive in the dining experience of your customers. And it's full of psychological expectations, urges, and tensions.
With its fois gras and truffles, its champagne and souffle, sauternes and cognac... its stylish accoutrement, fine dining presents itself as the well-bred face of hedonism. But beneath this elegant exterior lurk psychological tendencies that can upset the most careful evening's plans. This is part of the magic of dining, its unpredictability. Dining often brings what's least expected. And while we can't control or predict the kind of outcome a customer will experience, we can learn to recognize the factors that will influence it.
The "fine" in fine dining has changed a lot of late. Not so surprising that something as trend-sensitive as food and wine will have to move with the times. The traditional Michelin image can seem now a little fusty and old fashioned, though eminently better than some new fads-for-fad's sake. Still, though, the style of 3-courses, everyone makes their own selection, courses all brought out together… this status quo has been well and truly challenged by molecular gems originating from Spain, or foraged finds with a Scandinavian sensibility, or even street food gone high-end. Style, format, ingredients, order of dishes, service imperatives – while these have changed as they've needed to change, the essence of dining, of hospitality, that remains what it has always been.
There's nothing quite like dining for revealing human nature in all its shades. Because an evening's dining is first and foremost a psychological experience. It may start with the simple prospect of appetite and taste, but from there it can range almost anywhere, depending on the dynamic factors in play at and around the table. There's seduction, satisfaction, celebration, one-upmanship, obligation, experimentation, expectations exceeded, illusions shattered, confidences shared and impressions kept to oneself.