What am I really selling in a Restaurant or a Café?

About 18 years ago while I was at a point where I was excited about running my own Restaurant/Café I met a guy, the owner, in his coffee shop. I inquired from him what it was like running his own place. He was an ex-marketing Guru and presented me with a question to answer mine. His question was, “what do you think the cosmetic industry sells?” I pondered and then proceeded to throw the obvious answers, Lipstick, perfume etc. his way. When he eventually put me from my misery with his answer, “hope” it changed my life for good. What a simple but profound moment, he then explained that owning a Cafe, what he sold, was “time out.”

My cooking skills at that stage were second to none and I took them and the simple lesson I was taught by that day and went on to create the very successful Sydney health food brand, Saladworks.

By identifying my prospected clientele as a time poor, health conscious professional I never lost sight of their fundamental needs; time, fresh healthy food, consistency and value for money. It was not just about what was in ‘our bowl’ but more about what the whole Saladworks experience represented to my customers. From the way I/We greeted and handed them their change, so they would not drop it while balancing a mobile phone, handbag, drink bottle or whatever (change first, carefully followed by neatly folded notes so the coins would not slide from the note to the floor) to the way we packaged, cleaned and presented their lunch so they would not have salad dressing on their newly ironed blouse or shirt. They didn't need to pay me for another headache in their day! Did they?

Would my product have been any different had I not had this encounter? Perhaps not but what it gave me was an ethos to build around my product/service and that ethos became the backbone of my companies philosophy and standards. This enabled me to create a culture for staff and customers alike to buy into. We cared.

My determination to maintaining those values commanded a very loyal following and the point to my tale is that it is not enough to just identify that people buy feelings, not products- but that you have the leadership/management skills, grit, integrity and vision to adhere to achieving such loyalty and big-picture thinking, regardless of any current issues you may or may not be facing. From personal, staffing, financial, to competition, suppliers or whatever.

Creating a connection and bond with your customer in an era of ‘startups’, will create loyalty, your customer, on a subconscious level will automatically gravitate towards your brand and associate their experience with one of relief.

Just think yourself how complex our lives have become where every chore we complete requires that we have a complete focus to participate. Setting up an Internet connection, on hold to your bank or mobile provider, changing private health insurance, or knowing the correct passwords after 5 rounds of identity checks for the right to speak to someone who has rung you!

To approach any service industry with your customer's wellbeing at the forefront of your thoughts and objectives will allow you to stand out from your competition and will command great loyalty on a subconscious level. Take the fear or even just some of the thinking out of the equation. Be it the actual execution or perhaps the design or flow of your concept to the menu formatting and point of sale and beyond.

Intentions alone will not allow for a seamless delivery of such noble causes, only prior planning and preparation shall prevent poor performances. So having a vision, although a great starting point, is only the beginning of the journey. It is critical before you announce your arrival that you have all your ducks in a row and sometimes only experience can prepare you for the common pitfalls that ultimately can be avoided. And we all know prevention is a lot simpler than cure.

So do your due diligence, note vulnerabilities and don’t be penny shy and pound-foolish.

The answers are out there. At Copper Pantry Restaurant and Café Consulting, our aim is to teach you from the mistakes we have made and learned from. You are not the first to attempt this and the answers could be the difference between success and failure.

Check out our other blogs and drop us a line if you have any queries. Good Luck.


Best Dishes

Sean McBride