As a micro-experience assessment professional, I believe that the difference between loyal fans and haters are about whether they enjoyed the details of their restaurant experience.
That statement, in and of itself, should imply to you that: 1) I care deeply about the details and 2) I’m opinionated about the details because 3) the details matter to your customer and therefore 4) details determine their loyalty and 5) your paycheck.
I may lose a couple of foodie friends with this article…
Story 1: Doro WHAT!?
Last week I accidentally stumbled upon the Nashville Arcade. I was smiling like an idiot because there were about a dozen places to eat and, living in a small southern town, I don’t get many choices these days.
Via Yelp, I discovered that there was an Ethiopian restaurant! I spent a couple of months in Ethiopia in 2004 and it happens to be some of my all-time favorite food. I was gladly planning on disregarding the dirty atmosphere of this little shack because all I had on my mind was my meal.
I excitedly walked right up to the owner behind the counter and asked, “You have doro wat, right?” Expecting an, “Of course!”
Wait, I have to pause and explain something first. Doro wat is the most popular Ethiopian dish there is. It’s essentially their national dish. Any respectable Ethiopian restaurant serves doro wat. Period. It’s in my top 5 dishes of all time and I scour the earth on a regular basis looking for this plate of goodness.
Back to the story. He said, “No, but we have several other vegetarian dishes here.” I paused and closed my dropped jaw. “You… don’t… have doro wat?” He smiled, shaking his head. I smiled and said, “Okay, thank you very much.” I left, deflated.
What I wanted to do was shake him by his beautiful Ethiopian shoulders and say, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!” But I’m a generally kind person and so I didn’t tell him that he lost a customer forever.
Story 2: Ranch Will Ruin You For Life
Listen, I grew up in the south and we were a Hidden Valley Ranch family. No matter how my palette grows over the years, I still love Ranch on my pizza. Just one of those things.
P.S. I just Googled “Ranch on pizza” to find some kind of study or poll to back me up on the fact that Ranch on pizza is the best. Here’s what I found instead:
- Ranch dressing is what’s wrong with America
- 15 Reasons Why Eating Pizza With Ranch Will Ruin You For Life
- Ranch Doesn’t Belong on Pizza, Because Ranch Doesn’t Belong on Pizza
- Why a Dallas Pizzeria Charges $1,000 for Ranch Dressing
Wow. We’ve got some real Ranch haters, don’t we?
A couple years ago I ate at a farm-to-table pizza joint in Charlotte, North Carolina once and splurged on a tiny, very expensive pie. I asked for a side of Ranch as I always do, to which waiter replied, “We don’t serve Ranch. Our owner wants you to experience the flavor of the bread on its own.”
I never went back.
Story 3: Black is Best
I have a client who makes the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not exaggerating and I’m not biased due to him and his wife also being the nicest people around.
Before they opened, we met so I could help get their marketing off the ground, along with giving menu and aesthetic recommendations and feedback.
During our conversation, the owner, who has the most distinguished coffee palettes I’ve ever seen, mentioned that he wants his customers to experience the magic of his coffee without cream and sugar. That cream and sugar oftentimes ruin the experience by covering up the flavors of the coffee.
Within a couple months of opening their business, they began serving cream and sugar. Their business is now thriving with hundreds of raving reviews.
Here’s the moral of the story: if you have a “take it or leave it” mentality in your business, you just might get left.
9 times out of 10, customers don’t care about your story. They don’t care about your distinguished palate. They don’t care why you chose not to serve X, they’re just upset that they can’t order it. They want the choice of tasting the ingredient as it “should be” vs. how they want it.
This weekend I may have the opportunity to eat at one of the top restaurants in the entire country. The seat alone is several hundred dollars for one meal. Will I ask for Ranch? Heck no. Will I ask for Ranch at every pizza joint from now until forever? Yes! You’re a pizza joint! Calm down with your ego!
Chefs, cooks, business owners, managers, waiters, decision-makers, at the end of the day, be more like Jeff Bezos and be obsessive about your customers’ experiences.
If you feel strongly about not serving X at your restaurant, then at least be willing to ask your waiters to have absurdly excellent customer service as they ask the customer to taste it as it “should be” before immediately serving what they want.
Teach your customers but don’t force them to adhere to your culinary conviction. Sure, tell them why you feel strongly about X, but if they still ask for X, then serve it with a smile!
At the end of the day, it’s just food. The most important task in your career is to give your customers a great experience, not convict them of your beliefs (even if you really believe Ranch on pizza is sacrilege).