One of the things I find when doing restaurant consulting is that owners and management frequently have not considered the comfort of their guests while dining, and work solely on making sure the food and service is a good quality. While these are both things that are very very important to address, it’s also important to look at other aspects of the dining experience. Many restaurants are laid out for maximum flow and seating capacity, and sometimes don’t take into account that while you can cram in an extra deuce in the breezeway, you may not be doing your restaurant a favor in the long run.
If a couple goes out to a restaurant and has a wonderful meal and terrific service and then the lady goes to restroom and finds that, in the delightfully decorated and very clean washroom, there is no place to put or hang her purse (so she must put it on the floor or hang on to it while trying to use the loo) that does tend to mar the experience. While this is a small thing, its amazing how things like that can stick in people’s memories.
Many things of course are more important. including the noise level in the restaurant, i.e. is the noise from the kitchen too loud? Is the music? Are there irritations in particular spots of the dining room that are not universal for every seat?
In pretty much every restaurant there is the “bad” table, the one right underneath the music speakers, or the air conditioner, or the one that backs up to either to the front door or the kitchen. Ones too close to server stations, that are constantly passed by waitstaff or that hear the chatter of the POS system printing out receipts.
There are two options to address situations like this.
Remove the offending table, and while you may have less seating, you have less chance of having a good, possibly repeat customer, get seated at that table and having a great food and service experience, but was irritated by the fact that every time someone opened the front door, they got a blast of hot or cold air on them.
Option two, which I would recommend trying first, seat yourself in EVERY single seat in the dining room, I would recommend doing this during service over the course of a few weeks. Sit at the table for awhile with a cup of coffee and just observe for awhile. Playing musical chairs while the restaurant is closed doesn’t give you the same feedback as while its operating.
Many issues are easily fixable; the music speaker angled up toward the ceiling more may cut down on the noise level. If you have tablecloths on the table, do they drape properly or do customers catch the edges when sitting down? A seat by the outdoor of the kitchen could have a wall or anchored screen put between it and the diners with a good silencing door stop in front of it.
About 6 months ago we ate in a fine dining restaurant and the food and service were extremely good, we arrived there on a Saturday night and managed to squeeze in to the only table available. Unfortunately my seat banquette was up against the outdoor of the kitchen and while the restaurant made an effort to minimize the door exposure by putting a wall up, every time a server went out, it banged against the wall. We asked our wonderful waiter if it was possible to move us to a less noisy/disruptive location as soon as a table opened up, and he did within a few minutes. While I would definitely return to eat there, it is of note to remember that all this time later, I still remember the door banging. If the restaurant had put a rubber flexible stopper behind the door it would have greatly enhanced our dining experience.
If you are a female, ask a valued friend of the opposite sex’s opinion as well as vice versa. Men for instance may not think of the necessity of a place to put a purse in the woman’s room and many women may not consider that many men are taller then women, so require more foot and leg room under a table or banquette. I don’t know how many times my husband and I have been out to eat and while I am comfortable at a table or banquette (being quite short), my husband is not, being about 9 inches taller.
When restaurant people go out to eat, we analyze and notice everything, be it food, be it service, be it the fact that the wait station is unorganized or that the particular restaurant is using Sysco, because you can see the Sysco box of tin foil under the counter. People that are not hospitality people still notice things, even subconsciously, and those are some of the things they remember, the small irritations.
Put your self in the customer’s mindset and observe. What can you do or fix to make your diners experience absolutely perfect food, service and comfort. Don’t think like an owner or manager; think as if you were the actual guest and not as a customer that comes to eat (as the owner) but as an actual customer with no preconceived misconceptions.