Think about your favorite restaurant. That place you go when you have some extra time, maybe a little extra jingle. Not the place you take the visiting in-laws (unless you actually like them, but then that would be an oxymoron), but the place you take your BFF or closest couple friends. The guys who know how to complete your lame movie quotes or Seinfeld one-liners.
Why did you choose restaurant X? What makes it special?
Maybe it’s the handy valet or the great view. The local suppliers, free-range meat, or nods to the diet du jour on the menu. It could be the funky interior or the layout just made for comfortable conversation. You may have made the pick because of the interesting fare and prompt, thorough customer service. The relaxed atmosphere or music may be your thing. Or it may be the right combination of good food and reasonable price. I just hope it’s not because you’re one of those people who like to drop a Benjamin for what amounts to a cup of frou-frou food on a sauce-drawn miniature plate. Puh-leeze!
The fact is, there’s a secret combination of ingredients working together to create a certain chemistry that just works for you (hopefully those that you’re entertaining, too), and likely many other diners like you. That certain elusive je ne sais quoi that Micky D’s doesn’t capture, even with extra props for the new fruity smoothies.
You’ve had good times there, eaten good food there, taken refuge there when nursing a few wounds (I completely agree, you *should* have snagged that promotion.). Some of the rational benefits of your choice are getting folded into some of the emotional accoutrement. Things get melded together. The restaurant is much more than simply a place to snag a sandwich.
When rational benefits meet emotional responses, transformative developments take shape for business. Making and keeping a believeable, consistently achieveable (through a focused model, regimented training, tested process, and feedback loops) brand promise will play out in earned credibility. The kind that spreads organically. If you mix in “surprise and delight” variables often associated with service – being greeted by name, receiving special accommodations, garnering personal attention, and exclusive or special occasion offers – and a business can rise above a mass of peers. It can attract and fulfill a clientele ready, willing, and able to spend $20 on the lunch that wasn’t. Lunch at your favorite restaurant with your best girl friend who needed a pick-me-up isn’t lunch. It’s soul food.
A business intent on building lasting affinity with customers will recognize that success is sometimes not about achieving scale, but rather about delivering special. I’ve paid extra for that. And I’ve referred friends with confidence, too.
What about you? Where have you dined recently – or received any personal service – where you felt the brand was really paying attention to the details, and the front-line staff knew how critical it was to execute according to the secret recipe?
Image of Comme Ca from Zagat.