When I was starting my first restaurant so many years ago, I made it clear to my staff that every dish coming out of the kitchen had to have what I called “WOW” Factor.  That meant that the portion size, presentation and everything about the look, smell and taste of each item had to make the customer exclaim to the table “WOW”!   Quickly, this became a “hook” in my establishment and those that followed.

I love to talk to operators and managers about the power of “hooks” and your restaurant wow factor simply cannot have too many hooks. A hook is anything unique, exciting and powerful that sets your restaurant apart from the competition that your customer will talk about.  Hooks build customer loyalty and that all-important “word of mouth” marketing.  

I recommend that you sit down with your team and have a good old-fashioned “brainstorm” session to talk about “What’s Really Special” about your place that your entire staff can present to the guest.  

Don’t overlook all the other powerful ways to present your “hooks” such as table tents, your menus, chalkboards, signs and internal marketing ideas of all kinds.

Now back to the “WOW”.  Once the plate presentations were creating excitement and buzz, I started to think about creating “WOW” across my restaurant.  The front entrance, the host counter, dining rooms, the bar, the bathrooms, etc.  I was actually inspired by Las Vegas.  Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not suggesting that you install a casino in your restaurant, although the cash flow would be nice.   What I mean to say is everything about the famous Vegas “Strip” is about dazzling your eye, creating excitement and compelling you to spend money!   So my team and I looked at every area of our restaurant and bar and applied this concept to creating “WOW”!

First it all starts with your staff.  Right from the get-go, I trained my staff to be “entertainers” on stage, attentive to every need, personable and to present their unique personalities to the guest.  This alone became our restaurant’s “Secret Weapon” and a powerful competitive advantage.  

The signature dish that built our restaurant was wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, so of course we built our “brick oven” right in the middle of the dining room.  We had a large host area and it certainly didn’t hurt that we created lots of appealing retail merchandise that were impulse sales items as guests entered and left the restaurant.  

Our location was at a ski resort, so we installed a snow making machine that actually made snow on the dance floor.  Are you getting the idea?  

Its all about the “WOW” whether your hooks are as dramatic as these or more subtle to fit your brand and theme.

I’ve always believed that dining out in any restaurant should be an “event” and this is certainly what I look for when I dine out in anyplace USA or really anywhere in the world.  A restaurant should provide endless reasons to dazzle the customer, invite them back and create “affinity” with each customer.  

There really is No Greater, more Cost-Effective form of Marketing than this simple idea.