3 Things That Can Make or Break the Restaurant Experience
What makes a restaurant successful? Is it merely great food at reasonable prices? Though it is easy to apply such simplicity to an age-old question, there is actually more to it than that. With the exception of counter service restaurants purposely designed to be little more than branded cafeterias, sit-down restaurants with dining rooms and servers are quite complex in how they influence guest experience.
Seasoned restaurateurs know that guest experience is a big thing. Where they disagree is in deciding what constitutes the best possible experience for the largest number of diners. As such, different restaurants offer different kinds of environments.
Are there any characteristics that seem consistent across multiple environments? Yes. Three are discussed in this post. How each of them is addressed can make or break any restaurant.
1. Quality Table Linens
A few decades ago, you couldn’t walk into anything other than a fast food restaurant or greasy spoon diner and not find table linens. Restaurant owners at least covered their tables with tablecloths – even if they offered paper napkins. They somehow lost their way in recent years. Table linens are now the exception rather than the rule.
Believe it or not, quality table linens do make a difference. Consider a study out of Germany recently published in the Food Quality and Preference journal. The study was conducted at the University of Hohenheim by way of several experiments designed to test how restaurant guests react to both lighting and table linens.
Each of the four groups was exposed to a specific lighting environment and table setting. Researchers discovered that the group that dined in dim lighting and at a table covered by a tablecloth gave the highest marks for food taste. They also ate more food, lingered longer, and reported an overall better experience.
They also discovered that the tablecloth played the more important role in determining guest satisfaction. Simply put, guests perceive that their food tastes better when they eat with a tablecloth under their dishes.
2. Appropriate Lighting
Although lighting is not as big a factor as table linens, it is still a factor nonetheless. Researchers observed that guests reported their tomato soup tasted a bit saltier under low light conditions. This is probably due to the fact that the body’s other senses are naturally heightened when lighting is dim.
Depending on the kind of food a restaurant is serving, low light could be beneficial. It can also be counterproductive as well. Nonetheless, lighting does affect guest experience one way or another.
3. Ambient Noise
It is no secret that noise levels in restaurants have steadily climbed over the last two decades. This is not without reason. Restaurant owners now prefer noisy environments because they believe that noise adds to the energy. Thus, they welcome loud music, concrete walls, high ceilings and open kitchens.
It is interesting that so many seem to ignore their guests in this regard. According to a Zagat survey conducted in 2018, the number one complaint among America’s diners is restaurant noise. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they find restaurant noise bothersome.
Noise prevents people from engaging in conversation. For some people, it can even be the source of headaches, anxiety attacks, etc. Noise certainly has an impact on guest experience, which is one reason that restaurant supply companies like Alsco recommend using table linens. Both tablecloths and cloth napkins can absorb reverberating sounds and quiet the din somewhat.
The use of table linens along with lighting and sound impact restaurant guest experience. How the three are approached can make or break the long-term success of any restaurant.