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.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.