I’ve always believed the three most important attributes of any successful restaurant are Food, Service & Ambiance. You naturally expect in any restaurant that the food will be good and that the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxing, appropriate to the menu and concept. Many in the business would argue that each of these three attributes are equally important, yet to me as a former operator, Service really should stand above.

With that said, what happens if your restaurant shines with food, ambiance or both at the expense of your customer’s overall experience?

Here’s a case in point.  One of my favorite restaurants where I live has a great vibe and the food and drinks are consistently very good.  The aesthetic details of the interior seating and bar, as well as the outdoor deck are really comfortable and appealing and the place is usually busy.  I live in a mountain resort town where everyone is outdoor active and this restaurant is somewhat of a shrine to this lifestyle.  I can relate as I once owned a successful ski resort restaurant with a skiing theme.   

Although I like visiting this place, the service can be a bit disorganized and lackluster more often than not. Granted, I may be quite biased about great restaurant service, but the customers here don’t seem to mind, as the restaurant has a loyal following that appears to keep coming back for more.  But what if this clientele really knew and cared about what they were missing and it changed their dining habits.  No restaurant can ever afford to take any customer for granted, as the free market system usually ensures numerous other choices all vying for their share of the diner’s dollar.   

Every detail counts when you’re running restaurants, but in my book treating every customer like the most important customer and making every experience better than the last is how true success is won in this most demanding and fickle business.

This paradigm shift should be the M.O. and Job-1 of every operation regardless of size. Once the lightbulb goes on and the operator truly gets it, it now takes consistent and regular training to overdeliver on service, as well as excel at the other two important attributes.  Every staff person should understand how their unique role in elevating each and every guest’s experience makes or breaks that restaurant.  Now the heavy lifting begins.  A daily pre-shift meeting becomes standard operating procedure.  Staff are trained in basic hospitality and salesmanship.  Teamwork and communication are choreographed between all front of house positions and coordinated with the expeditor and back of house. The service team is conditioned to recognize, thank and welcome back each guest. Empowerment is the “key” to this powerful competitive advantage.  Train your staff to “think like an owner or manager” and then to notice every detail, in the sea of 1000 restaurant details that your customer ultimately sees.  Impressions are either positive or negative and are lasting.

Going back to my example… with a new emphasis on service to complement the great food and atmosphere, how much busier and more profitable would this place be? Can you see the domino effect that service can have on the entire operation… from lower staff turnover, to customers who now become your best marketers, not to mention an ever growing bank account and new found pride in the staff and management?

Approach your business from a fresh perspective each new day, play your best game and always keep open to new ideas and opportunities.   Achieve this pinnacle in your operation and your restaurant can elevate the industry and raise the bar in your market area. Believe me, your guests will notice and reward your restaurant with their business.

AS PUBLISHED ON TOTAL FOOD SERVICE OCTOBER 26, 2016:  http://totalfood.com/food-ambiance-overshadows-service/