My Restaurant Word for 2016 is ‘EPIC’

Every year when I coach restaurant owners and their staff, I determine an underlying theme. The theme shifts a bit as economies change, customer expectations adjust and things just get better. However, over the past 10 years, things have been changing and improving at a pace that would make the Tasmanian Devil dizzy. My theme in 2015 was “Good is not Good Enough.” I can bore you with all the details about exactly what that meant or you can watch this video after you finish reading about EPIC. While there is not much of a difference, I feel EPIC carries some emotional weight. It gets the point across quicker and with less explanation.

Consider the Cost

Everybody wants more customers, more butts in seats. And I get it, more customers equals more money, but does it equal more profits? Maybe, if your cost to acquire that customer is minimal. We all got really excited about the “free” possibilities social media promised. It was going to allow us to acquire new customers at no cost, but it didn’t work out as well as we hoped. So, until the next new thing, it will cost money to get customers. It can be in the form of coupons, discounts, advertising or promotions, but the point is, customer acquisition costs money. With more competition than ever before, the restaurant industry is crowded. As I mentioned before, customer expectations are quickly changing. To be brutally honest, most restaurants are just not keeping up.  

If all the guests who have eaten at your restaurant, were still eating at your restaurant, you would need another restaurant.

The rules have changed and if you are doing what you were doing as recent as three or four years ago, you are not going to get the results you desire. Which is were that word EPIC comes into play. A couple of weeks ago I was working with a food truck client who is not getting a desired volume level. People are not following the truck around town and posting pictures on social media like they are with other trucks in the area. So, the truck is relying on what an event (or parking spot) can bring. By the way, I love this problem in restaurants because it’s so easy to fix. The staff said plenty of people would walk up to the truck because, while everybody else was doing the same old thing, they were serving barbecue. That point of distinction was bringing them customers, awesome, but those customers were not coming back. If all the guests who have eaten at your restaurant, were still eating at your restaurant, you would need another restaurant.

That is when EPIC jumped into my head. If you want people to follow you on Twitter and drive to your truck, their experience needs to be epic. If you want them to filter through all the advertising and promotions other restaurants are offering, then everything needs to be outstanding. What is the experience your customers are getting when they eat your restaurant, interact with your staff and get their food? I heard a lot of words when I asked the staff and truck owner this, but they all equated to average. And then they served me some food and average became even more apparent. This is important: there was nothing wrong with anything. The barbecue was good, maybe really good, maybe great. But the other trucks were doing something EPIC. The truck had 10 to 15 items that were all good, while the other trucks had two to three items that were out of this world.

How to do EPIC in your restaurant

I actually think it’s pretty simple to go from average to EPIC. It’s just doing one percent more than guests already expect. We all go into situations thinking certain expectations will be met. When they are, we don’t tell our friends or post about it on Facebook because it was exactly what we expected. If it’s not what we expect, we tell the world and we tell the world if it exceeds our expectations. How do you do one percent more than your customers expect? The first step in this journey is to find out what customers expect. Some want fast service, some want simple food that tastes great, some want crazy, over-the-top food. I can’t answer this for you, but can you answer this for you. Have you asked your customers what their expectation is of your restaurant? Have you ever had the guts to ask if everything exceeded their expectations instead of the standard: “How is everything?” Do you have a target customer and know exactly what he or she wants? You can’t be everything to everybody! You might be surprised what you can learn from your customers.

I became a raving fan of Apple computers when I purchased my first iMac in 2010. I plugged it in and 10 minutes later, my entire digital world was working. That would have taken me hours on a PC. I talk to people all the time who hold differing opinions. My response is that I don’t care about those things. I care about my computer being easy to use and working. To me, that was EPIC. So instead of trying to find the next new marketing ploy that will temporarily put butts in your seats, spend the time to make sure the customer experience at your place is outstanding. Don’t just settle for giving them good service and good prices, give them an EPIC experience and the price won’t matter as much. And they’ll come back.