In our digital age the influence of a titled food critic’s opinion has been replaced by the emergence of guest review websites, social media, and food influencers. Food critics per se are not as common as they used to be, however the thorough process that notable food critics follow is extremely useful in understanding how your operation stacks up.
Unlike unforgiving guests who often give you one chance to make it, food critics never dine just once at a restaurant and they often wait until a few weeks post opening to test it out. To gain a deeper understanding of how your restaurant brand is actually performing, it’s critical that you maintain operational check-ins regularly to see the level of consistency in the service, food quality and overall brand experience.
So, put on your food reviewer hat, it’s time to put your own operation under the microscope.
Investigate the competition
Dine at your competitors on a regular basis to get a true picture of the lay of the land. Make notes of what they are doing well and not so well, and overall how their service, food, and brand stack up to yours
Take a seat at your own table
In addition to regular tastings for quality control, invite a few guests in for a complimentary experience that you can trust will offer an authentic opinion. Sit at the table with them to see your operation from the guests’ perspective.
- TIP: To maintain a typical experience, refrain from letting your service and kitchen teams know in advance that you will be dining in!
Review each guest touchpoint
Every touchpoint in your restaurant needs to be representative of the experience you want to offer your guests. Take the time to review each brand touchpoint; you know your biggest critics will be!
- Exterior design and décor – entranceway, front signage, patio, sidewalk, parking area, planters and foliage. Ensure these first impression zones are clean, up to your brand standards and guest expectations.
- Entrance and greeting area – doors, lighting, floor mat, greeting stand. The first greeting and entrance to the space set the tone for the guests’ dining experience.
- Team attire and presentation – ensure the team attire is professional and aligns with the personality of your brand, whether it is causal or upscale.
- Interior design – floor layout, lighting, flooring, wall designs, accent décor, signage, floral and live plants, window coverings, bar design, washrooms, menus – each detail must be consistent with your overall brand experience.
- Music – this sets the tone and the mood for your space. It needs to suit your guest demographic, ideally changed for the time of the day, and matching and enhancing the vibe of your brand.
- Table setting and arrangement – whether you’re a modern upscale restaurant or casual vibrant pub, your table setting needs to provide guests with the tools and information they need to understand your restaurant offering and enjoy what’s to come, without having to ask.
- Kitchen and server stands – guests have eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the restaurant, so be alert to how your team is congregating in visible areas.
- Service – professional, caring and consistent service is essential in running a successful restaurant operation.
- Quality – the presentation, the quality and the freshness of dishes and drinks is your number one biggest factor for success or failure. Just like a food critic, trying all menu items at various times will give you a true sense of quality consistency.
These three practices will provide beneficial insight into your operational opportunities for improvement, and the changes needed to achieve a 5-star review.
About the Author
Kate Engineer is a hospitality communications consultant with more than 12 years of consumer-centric cross-functional marketing and communications experience.