Is your business menu attracting the right customers?

I do love restaurant renovation shows. I love seeing the reveal and the difference a few subtle changes can make to the look and feel of a space. I love seeing the renewed energy that accompanies the transformation and the pure joy on the recipient’s faces. I get a kick out of how a pair of fresh eyes with a different perspective can renovate a business in ways that no-one could have imagined prior.

Most of all, I love seeing how a business can be transformed through pure focus on five key areas.

Research

In every case, the program starts with research into current practices, customer feedback and menu testing. This process provides insight into the future theme of the restaurant, what is working and what isn’t. It allows the team to see the business through the eyes of the customer.

Simplification

In each one of the shows that I have seen, regardless of the expert managing the transformation, the menu is tossed out and replaced with a simple, more easily prepared, offering that centres around one relevant theme. Every. Single. Time.

Alignment

The theme is consistent with what the diners in the area are looking for and speaks to a unique customer with an aligned price point. The typical customer could be families, professionals or even children but in every case the ideal customer is researched, meticulously understood and considered through every aspect of the business. The new and improved business does not try to be everything to everyone.

User Experience

Another area of focus is the layout, design and overall feel of the restaurant. Mostly replacing a tired, dark and less than inspiring space with elegance, ambience and flow. The objective here is to enhance the customer experience to encourage repeat business and referrals. This is done through connecting the diner with the space, with the staff and the feeling they get when they are there.

People come back to a place where they feel valued, heard and welcomed.

Product promise

In my opinion the product must simple, solve a specific problem and exceed the expectations of the target customer. People learn what to expect and feel confident that the service standard is maintained. This is where both business growth and referrals come from.

That said, it is not just the product that gets customers through the door.

How many times have you gone to a restaurant where the service has been less than ideal? The food may have been fantastic but it is not your only consideration in your decision to return. I can think of at least one two-hatted restaurant that I will never revisit due a less than ideal dining experience.

In addition to this, if you don’t have the other elements in place your ability to scale the business is severely impacted. Let me give you a case study:

I watched a family friend of ours start a Thai takeaway business in a very average area of Sydney with great success. His food was out of this world and is still the best Thai food I have ever eaten – even in Thailand. His mother taught him to cook in the traditional way and he is a naturally gifted chef.

His restaurant was a hole-in-the-wall takeaway joint. It was functional, but not beautiful, and served outstanding food. Soon, word got around and the place was packed, every night. The user experience was consistent and clear. The food was quick, and authentic (product promise) to local people (alignment) with an easy menu (simplification) and aligned user experience.

Whilst the business was satisfying as it was, The owner wanted more. He had dreams of a fine dining restaurant and had been told many times that his food was worthy of this.

Four elements were already in place for the takeaway restaurant – simplification, alignment, user experience and product promise. All it took to upgrade, put the business (and himself) on the map, and create knock-on opportunities that have resulted in more restaurants, his own cooking show, printed cookbooks and many other benefits was to conduct research with his current and future customers and shift just two of these elements – Product alignment to a more discerning audience and an upgraded user experience.

It is interesting to see how many businesses – both large and small – are successful with this strategy. Quite often we can over-complicate things, and drive customers away, by trying too hard to please everyone.

But the biggest takeaway from this (pardon the pun) for me is connection. Connection to your customer, your market and your core offering so that the user experience is positive and makes sense. This approach works whether you are a big business, a small business or even as an individual.

Who do you talk to through your work day? Are you nurturing a simple and concise offering to a defined market or confusing the issue with too many solutions? I know it’s a tough job to drill down to what you most want to offer and I’ve spent the last two years doing just that. And even though I’ve shelved some things, it has been the most eye-opening and fruitful two years of my career.

I just wish I had done it earlier.

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