First off, you have to understand what goes in/on/around your business from the guest’s perspective is how the Guest Experience (Gx) is defined, not yours. And from the guest’s point of view (POV) an exceptional guest experience holds meaningfully differentiated value.
Technically, what the Guest Experience is, is how a guest thinks of you after considering all of their interactions with you, over the lifetime of their relationship. From their interaction with your website for information, or reviews, to the parking lot, to the table and on to the follow-up after the service. It includes your newsletter or other marketing collateral sent/requested to the guest. It also includes the reviews (formal or informal) of you.
It’s the accumulation of every time they think, talk or do something with you. And here’s a kicker: it encompasses those things that you don’t do/offer but that the guest thinks you should, like:
- not offering high chairs
- not splitting checks
- only accepting cash
- requiring/not requiring reservations
- not enough/convenient parking
- more comfortable places to sit while waiting for a table
To further define the guest experience lets also understand that the Gx is the core of your marketing strategy.
Now, unlike retail business where the customer experience goal is to actually not have any experience, the guest experience in a restaurant (or any hospitality business) is our product. It is a social experience. It’s a ‘day-in-the -life’ celebration of a first date, last date, anniversary, new job, lost job, birthday, or any special time to share with friends or family. People engage (the real thing) with one another and talk, laugh, share their life experiences all the while creating one.
It’s not just a plate of food or your 12 steps of service. It is much more. It’s how guests think about you. It’s how they order their lives around you. It’s about their relationships (real) with you and your staff and how they play out in their daily lives.
- Are you close to their office? Are you their Best lunch choice? Are you the place they recommend to their co-workers and friends at work?
- Did you host their rehearsal dinner or their wedding reception? Did they meet there?
- Are you their favorite restaurant to get away to with their spouse or family?
- Are you the place where they can simply have a good conversation knowing that you know and deliver on their personal expectations?
- Are you their oasis from a chaotic life?
- Are you engaged in their life outside of each service experience? (charity work, community support, cause marketing)
- Are you just another stop on their daily/weekly/monthly timeline?
In other words, what meaning do you hold for your guests and how are you adding to that meaning? This is the essence of how you communicate and solidify their relationship and loyalty to your business.
Most restaurants just go through their steps of service and call it a day. This is transactional at best and a commodity experience at worst. The goal is to add value at each touchpoint that is both meaningful and differentiated. This means you need to personalize each experience as you can and to continue to grow your database of information about each guest so you can do so effectively.