I always feel that it is a good idea to crawl inside the skin of your customers once in a while. Walk around in their shoes for a bit. Look at things from their perspective. Okay, enough with the clichés.
It is important for the owner–or the manager–to try to see what it is like to be a customer in your restaurant. I have worked places where they would encourage employees to come in and eat at a discounted price, so the employees can see what the customer experience is like. A concept I find to be a effective in getting the staff to understand what it is like to be the person dining in the establishment.
If you come in to eat, you definitely will see things that you normally would miss if you were just working. Maybe for the first time you will notice those cobwebs by the light fixture. Or the food splattered on the wall.
We lose our way from time to time, and a good way to get it back is to remind ourselves why we got in to this in the first place. For the customer. Start by coming in for dinner. Or lunch. Maybe even unannounced.
Another good idea is to sit down in different places in the restaurant. Remind yourself what the experience is like for a customer sitting at table 52, or table 37. Every seat is different and gives a uniquely nuanced look for that customer.
You might notice that one spot is unusually loud. Or has too good of a look in to the dish area. Maybe it is a table that tends to be drafty. Sure, sometimes there is not much you can do to change it, but you can at least be sensitive to it and it might even change how you seat your dining room.
For example, if I find that a table tends to be quite drafty–be it from the front door, or maybe the vent blowing the air conditioning–maybe it would be a good idea to not put that elderly couple there. A younger, less fussy couple, might not mind or even notice that draft.
Perhaps I find a table to be in an area that can get a bit too loud. Probably shouldn’t put that couple out for a romantic dinner there.
By sitting down at the various tables you can learn a lot about the potential guest experience.
Remind yourself what it is like to be a customer. It will make you a better business owner. A better employer. And probably a richer one.