There has been a lot of discussion recently about noise levels in restaurants. This post will not directly address noise as its main topic, but the noise discussion will serve as a launching point in an attempt to answer the question: what is the ideal restaurant environment?
If restauranteurs know one thing, it’s the reality that experience is everything in the restaurant industry. Customers who have an unpleasant experience at a particular establishment are not likely to return. They are not likely to recommend that restaurant, either.
Know Your Customers
One of the most fundamental principles of successful business is knowing your customers. It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to serve the best Mexican food or high-end clothing and accessories in a mall. Knowing your customers is critical to giving them the experience they want. Not knowing your customers makes it much more difficult to give them the ideal experience. How can you give them what they want if you don’t know them?
Not knowing customers is a problem that seems endemic in the restaurant industry. How so? Because restaurants – particularly chain restaurants – tend to focus on the 25 to 35 age group to the exclusion of all others. That is not necessarily a bad thing if a restaurant is located in an area dominated by that demographic. But how about restaurants in other locations?
Taqueria27 is a Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah (actually, there are several locations). It was founded on the premise that local neighborhoods need family- and neighborhood-oriented establishments that encourage people to spend time together over a good meal. This is a family-owned business that recognizes an entirely different demographic and is now seeking to provide the right kind of experience.
Never Assume the Ideal Experience
Another area in which far too many restaurants fall down is assuming what the ideal experience should be. For example, it is true that younger guests tend to prefer a more energetic experience as compared to their older counterparts. But that doesn’t translate into a dining environment that is so high energy that it makes enjoying the dining experience nigh to impossible.
This takes us back to the current debate about noise. Restaurants do not have to re-create the nightclub environment in order to succeed with a younger audience. Let the nightclubs be nightclubs. That’s what they do best. Make the restaurant a place where diners can enjoy a different experience before going to the clubs.
Along those same lines, families and seniors do not tend to prefer restaurants that offer more of a nightclub experience. Families want restaurants that can accommodate their unique needs in a less formal environment. Seniors prefer restaurants that are quiet and spacious.
Finding a Niche is Key
So, is there an ideal restaurant environment? No. The restaurant industry is so broad that it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all establishment. That leaves restaurant owners in the position of having to find a particular niche and then pursuing it 100%.
Trying to be all things to all people is something that does not work in the restaurant business. Taqueria27 has decided that their niche is the neighborhood restaurant that people visit to socialize and get good food. Their locations are not going to be a big hit with the nightclub crowd. That’s okay. That is not the crowd they are aiming for.
The ideal restaurant environment is an environment that speaks to the experience a restaurant’s core group of customers want. And to create that experience, restaurant owners really need to get to know their customers.