Put your signature mark on every touch point of your business by learning the art and skill of what has been coined “Five Sensory Dining.” Have you heard of the cruise ship that offers its customer a “Journey for the Senses?” No matter where guests are dining, onboard or during onshore excursions, they aim to create sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and touch experiences that entertain all five senses. If you work in the foodservice industry and want to edge out the competition, don’t leave customer experience to chance.
If you have been following our series, you have already learned some profit-promising ways to shine a light on three of the senses: smell (aka the olfactory sense), sound, and taste. In this segment, we’ll turn our attention to touch and sight and explain how you can take them to the next level, sweeten the pot for customers, and enjoy a boon in business.
Profiting from the Sense of Touch in Your Restaurant
Perhaps the touchiest of the five senses to harness, in light of the ongoing presence of the global corona pandemic, is the sense of touch. Now more than ever, physical contact is avoided rather than sought out, and contact-free foodservice has become the golden standard in the industry.
However, there are still methods by which restaurateurs can incorporate physicality into their design and maximize the sense of touch for business success. For example, consider the attraction factor of M & M’s mega-sized display of M & Ms in Times Square, which people can approach, without gloves, to fill their own bag of candies from the bulk dispenser. You can also mimic the winning strategy of a Montreal bagel store, which has mounds of bagels lining the walls and decorating the entranceway. Not only does it capture the attention of passersby, but it gives their brand a signature presence that customers won’t easily forget.
Furthermore, according to some of the latest research findings, you can also enhance guests’ tactile experience of food and drink items by modifying the size, weight, texture, and temperature of their plates, glassware, and even menus. For example, many consumers believe that drinks taste better when served from a heavier glass and show a preference for drinks served from heavier wine bottles. These results are echoed in experiments where participants liked yogurt served from heavier bowls significantly more than the same exact yogurt served from lighter bowls. Moreover, participants rated the yogurt itself as denser and significantly more expensive.
Adjusting the ‘Feel’ of Your Restaurant
A more modern approach, known as the “feel” of an eatery, replaces the focus on surface or furniture finishes (i.e. natural, solid, textured, soft, hard, layered, plush) with manipulating customers’ perception of personal space. A cozy, secure small table near a wall may be some diners’ cup of tea, while others may prefer being positioned in the middle of the room surrounded by the clatter and chatter. Round or square tables is another consideration, as are bar stools versus traditional chairs. Eateries with a ’50s style menu feature jukebox style seating, while some fish restaurants decorate their premises to feel like customers are sitting on yacht. Simply don your creative chef’s cap and set your ‘biz up for success.
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to have reopened for business post-corona, your customers will be thrilled by some of the new interactive socializing technologies available today, such as countertops, tabletops, and walls lighting up or producing sounds when diners touch them.
Using Sight to Drive Food and Beverage Sales
If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to dining out, think again! Close your eyes and imagine eating in the pitch dark, intentionally deprived of visual input in order to enhance the other senses. Conversely, imagine digital projection technology transporting you to dinner in the middle of a rainforest, eating at the bottom of the sea, or sipping wine surrounded by vineyards.
If creating such virtual realities is beyond the scope of your ‘biz, fear not. There are plenty of true-and-tried techniques to cash in on sight, including strategic restaurant design. Starbucks, the renowned coffee conglomerate, for example, has transformed their traditionally warm and cozy aesthetic to an ultra-sleek interior design reflective of the global cultural. In the words of a Starbucks spokesperson: “This is an absolute narrative on the coffee experience, one of the most current immersive experiences worldwide. This is how Starbucks will communicate their expertise.”
How to Reap the Rich Rewards of Restaurant Visuals
Did you know that research has discovered that customers assess a restaurant with their eyes even before they glance at a menu and that creating the right tone and atmosphere via design elements goes a long way in determining the success of your business? Likewise, how your food is plated and presented, and even how it is colored, goes a long way in increasing customer appetite and appeal. For some consumers, seeing food being cooked in an open kitchen or tableside creates entertainment and tingles the taste buds.
Other visuals that cut the mustard include appropriate furniture for each demographic, room accessories, lighting fixtures, and even restroom knickknacks.
Food Photography and Instagram Visuals
In the history of the restaurant industry, there has never been a more opportune time for restaurateurs to harness the sense of sight and spread the word about their offerings to consumers worldwide. Friendly dishes that tell your story are game changers in the current restaurant marketing trend.
Not only does food photography pay off, but with millions of global consumers scanning the Internet daily, looking for food and beverage sales, recipes, promotions, hot deals, and restaurants that stand out from the pack, social media avenues such as Instagram are a cash cow that your business simply cannot afford to miss out on.
So go ahead: Upload a photo of the most irresistible, unusual, head-turning, or eye-boggling menu item your chef has to offer — and hope that this will be the one that goes viral and gets shared among family, friends, coworkers, and the masses of food lovers worldwide.
The name of the restaurant game is: How to Create an Intentional Multisensory Culinary Experience for Your Customers. Five Sensory Dining will the trick! So maximize the virtues of each of the five senses you have learned about as you and your customers enjoy the fruits of your success.
Bon Appétit and Good Luck!