When your customers enter your restaurant for the first time, what sort of first impression do they get? Good or bad, the first impression that your restaurant makes is incredibly important. The “primacy effect” states that the information people learn about you first is more powerful than what is learned later. This means that there is little room for error when you are creating a first impression – if something in your establishment rubs a customer the wrong way they are likely to never eat there again.
It’s often hard for restaurant owners to tell whether or not they are creating a good first impression, as they are not looking at their restaurant with fresh eyes. If you feel like you are too close to the problem and want an honest perspective, it can help to ask a friend or a relative to visit your restaurant and give you their feedback. Another strategy is to hire a mystery diner, there are agencies that will send someone “undercover” to your restaurant pretending to be a customer. They will then write up a report about their experience so that you can see where you could improve.
Or, you can read the reviews that guests have posted about you on Tripadvisor and other online review sites. What are they happy about? What are the common complaints?
In the age of the internet, first impressions are even more important than ever. That is because first impressions are shared impressions – because they are divulged on review websites, social media and blogs. A few bad reviews or a displeased popular food blogger can really spell bad news for your restaurant. This means that every customer has the potential to make or break your reputation!
Elements of a Good First Impression
You’re starting to become aware of just how important it is to create a good first impression at your restaurant – but what does this actually entail? What are the most important aspects that add up to make a fantastic first impression
- Your website. You might be surprised to learn that you are making a first impression on your customers before they even walk in the door. Many people do their research online to decide where to dine and if your website looks unprofessional they might assume your restaurant is the same. Invest in a Professional Restaurant Web Design that is easily navigable, has your address and phone number, has an easy to read menu and uses appealing images and graphics to highlight the best attributes of your restaurant.
- Answering the phone. One of the first interactions with your restaurant that the customer might have is when they call up to make a reservation. Make sure that you are greeting them with a polite, cheerful and professional tone.
- The walk to the table. When your guests enter the restaurant and the host walks them to their table, does the host make polite conversation? A simple few moments of casual banter or questions can create a welcoming and pleasant impression.
- Friendly and competent servers. Your guests should be greeted with a smile and given attentive service. Surly staff who offer poor service will give your guests a very poor impression. Also, your staff need to be able to read the body language of the table so that they can offer better service.
- Cleanliness. No one wants to eat in a dirty restaurant! Make sure that the restaurant is clean from top to bottom.
- Professional Looking Menu Covers. Make sure that your menu is neat, unmarked and appealing when it is place in the customer’s hands. A sticky, ripped paper menu will create an icky first impression, a stylish and clean menu in a luxurious menu holder will really impress.
- Neat uniforms. Your staff should look well-presented. This usually means black trousers, white shirts and ties or an equally elegant look that matches with the style and tone of your restaurant. Staff should not be wearing ripped or stained clothes – have back-up clothes on hand in case of spills and accidents.
These are just a few ways that a restaurant creates a first impression – all of which occur before the customer has even tasted the food. It’s very important to make sure that these elements add up to a good first impression, so that your guests fall in love with your restaurant right away and want to come back again and again.