Higher Spend and Happier Diners - A Psychological Match
By Brian Mitchell Principal, Mitchell Performance Systems | March 16, 2014
Co-authored by Evan Mitchell, Senior Consultant, Mitchell Performance Systems
The fourth article in a series on improving revenue and profits from F&B
The French diplomat and gourmand Brillat-Savarin, author of the classic The Physiology of Taste (first published in 1825 and never out of print since), had this to say on dining – "around a single table (one may find) all the modifications which extreme sociability has introduced into our midst: love, friendship, business, speculation, influence… ambition, intrigue."
It's no different in our 21st century. Restaurant tables today come with the same array of psychological variables. The dining experience should never be seen to be about food only. This is a dangerous assumption. Customers bring a range of expectations to a dining setting – not all of them conscious – and as these emerge and develop they present opportunities for resourceful front of house staff to bring about that ideal combination of higher spend and happier diners.
Put simply, the essential goal of all dining staff should be to maximize the enjoyment of each customer's dining experience. The fact that we so rarely see this in practice might be put down to poor supervision or inadequate training. But there's another more subtle impediment: the belief that diners go to restaurants with the express intention of limiting their spending. This imagined budgetary barrier is a fallacy, the evidence indicates otherwise. Unfortunately it's a fallacy that too many front of house staff find easy to accept. This automatically stunts their performance, by limiting the options they're willing to present to a customer and the confidence with which they offer their recommendations. The end result is that everyone suffers – the establishment through lost revenue, the diner through lost potential enjoyment, and the staff member through a loss of professionalism in their own eyes and in the perception of the customer.
This last point, the customer's perception, is the critical issue here. By second guessing the diner's expectations, and putting a false and arbitrary limit on their capacity or willingness to spend, the staff member is dictating the level of enjoyment the establishment is prepared to make available to that customer. This is ignorant at best and an insult at worst, and either way, hardly an inducement for customers to come back.