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You are in the Experience Business

As a restaurant or café you are in the business of experience. Traditionally “going out” has always been an occasion. It may be a big family dinner, a social lunch with a group of friends or a romantic dinner for two. Whatever the meal or occasion your customers want a fantastic experience. They want to walk out the door raving about how much they loved your restaurant, your food and your service. They are waiting to be impressed.
Your customer experience is everything you do and everything you say about yourselves. This starts with the word of mouth your business generates which tempts a customer to come to your restaurant and finishes with the last friendly word from staff member as they walk out the door.

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Defining your customer experience creates the foundation for your store design. Before you can design a store which will appeal to your target customers you must first understand who your customers are, define your point of difference and uncover the unique experience you will create for your customers. I go into more depth about the process to develop your customer experience in my book ‘Open Restaurants that Flourish’ which is set to be released early March, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, here are three simple steps.

1. Discover

The first stage is about understanding your business and your customer.
What makes your customers choose your business and keeps them coming back? There can be a number of reasons. You have a unique product that only you can offer. Defining the experience you want to create for your customers helps to build the foundation for how you engage with your customers and guides the development of your store design. The design of your store and how your customers interact with the space is a key part of the experience you create for your customers. However before you can design a store that will appeal to your customers you first must understand who they are, define your point of difference and uncover the unique value you are already offering to your customers. The best store designs are a collaboration between an experienced business owner who can contribute the operational knowledge and customer insights and a design team who can translate this knowledge into a defined customer experience and store design.

2. Define

Once you have clarity on who your customers are and what makes your business unique the next step is to define your customer experience. Your customer experience is made up of your brand story, the personality of your brand (how you speak to your customers) and the look and feel of your store. As the business owner the story of your business is your story. You have set the vision and values of the business. Sometimes even the personality of your business will reflect your own. This is part of what makes your business unique. When I sit down with a business owner and ask them about their store, I hear how the business began and the journey that led them to open their first restaurant. I see their eyes light up as they describe their vision for where they are headed. However, when I walk into their stores there is often no evidence of this story. What a shame. Your story is part of your brand and it is unique to you.

3. Design

The first two stages set the foundation for understanding and communicating your customer experience. Now you are ready to start creating the experience! Creating your customer experience is about translating the central idea that differentiates you from everyone else into every interaction you have with your customers. You customer experience is not just your store design, it is your website, your marketing messaging, social media profiles, the attitude of your staff and the experience your customers have when they sit down instore. The experience your customer has of your business will usually start long before they walk into your restaurant.


You can sign up for a free download of the first two chapters of my book, in which I go into more detail about Discover, Define and Design here.

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