As the expression goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
This sentiment applies exceptionally well to the intensely competitive restaurant world.
What tips and techniques can restaurant owners implement to impress first-time diners and keep them coming back for more?
As it turns out, it’s all in the details. Let’s count down five ways to to “wow” customers the first time they walk through your door.
1. Light Right
Many restaurant owners underestimate the power of good lighting.
Choose wrong, and your restaurant is either operating room bright or too dim for essential activities, like reading a menu or seeing your food.
Lighting isn’t just about functionality, however. It’s also a crucial component when it comes to setting the mood when diners arrive at your restaurant.
Are you going for rustic and romantic? Lively and bright?
Lighting immediately cues guests in regarding what to expect from the dining experience. Following through on this promise delivers the consistency today’s diners crave.
In general, a combination of overhead lighting and centerpiece lighting offers a beautiful blend of form and function.
2. Service with a Smile
Perhaps nothing has the power to make or break the dinner experience more directly than service.
Guests should be cheerfully and promptly welcomed by your host or hostess upon arrival, as well as warmly greeted by servers.
Make customer service part of your restaurant culture by training all members of your team — both front and back of the house — in expectations for guest interactions.
The importance of this cannot be overstated: Diners are more likely to remember a rude greeting or unacknowledged entrance over even the most phenomenal food.
Of course, it’s not just about how your staff acts, but also how they look. As in most situations in life, a tidy appearance goes a long way.
3. Consider Color
As with lighting, color makes a huge difference in terms of evoking emotions and conveying specific feelings to diners.
Warm colors like reds, yellows and oranges are stimulating — therefore perfect for fast food establishments where rapid turnover is the desired outcome.
Fine dining restaurants aimed at encouraging people to linger, meanwhile, may find subtler shades, such as cream, peach and apricot, more appropriate for cultivating a softer, more relaxing atmosphere.
Even the difference between off white and white can completely transform the diner experience. While the former may be seen as restful, the latter may simply be too intense.
And while color theory is largely variable, most experts agree that green poses the biggest challenge. Steering clear of this verdant hue may be the wisest course of action for all types of restaurants.
4. Show Your Lobby Some Love
While diners may spend mere minutes in your lobby, that time goes a long way to establishing a sense of what’s to come.
A well-designed lobby with decent flow, ample room for sitting and standing, and easy accessibility ensures that consumers are comfortable no matter how long the wait time.
And just as cleanliness in your dining room is a top priority, so is a clean lobby. Routine cleaning checks and touch-ups of everything from light figures and walls to windows and doors ensures a sparkling entrance every time.
5. Menu Magic
We’ve all heard that you “can’t just a book by its cover.” But if you’ve ever sat down in a well-appointed dining room only to be handed a less-than-appealing menu, you know this oft-quoted adage does not apply to restaurants.
Unfortunately, stained, tattered or unreadable menus can trigger feelings ranging from discomfort to disgust. Rather than putting off diners before they’ve even tried a single bite of the food, avoid this unpleasantry by routinely examining your menus so that your create a perfect first impression.
Wipe down menu covers between each service to keep them looking fresh and clean. If you’re using paper menus, meanwhile, a clean, unmarked copy for each diner is essential.
Dated-looking menus also make an undesirable impression so consider modernizing the look of your menu, if necessary.
At the end of the day, running a successful restaurant involves far more than serving delicious food. It’s also about serving up an exceptional and unforgettable experience to your guests, leaving them with a perfect first impression.
These five tips are designed to ensure that every diner who enters your restaurant has a first impression worthy of inspiring many return visits.