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Impressions Are Everything - Clean Up Your Act

There's a restaurant that just opened a few weeks ago that we decided to check out. With address in hand, a nagging emptiness in our stomachs, and a sense of eager anticipation, we headed out for what we hoped would be a delicious and enjoyable experience.

Knowing that it was brand new, we expected a well-conceived and beautifully executed setting with wonderfully delicious offerings that would have us begging for more.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by yet another seemingly generic establishment in a faceless strip mall. There were no visual devices on the facade to stimulate our senses, provoke curiosity, or lure us inside. In short, the place had no character. It was just another anonymous restaurant operating within an undeniably generic setting. 

Upon entry, it became immediately apparent that, although this place had been in operation and open to the public for a while, the bar had been overlooked. It had not yet been stocked, showed no sign of activity or relevance, and was simply a sad, empty, and somewhat lonely looking alcove that stood in sharp contrast to the fully resolved dining room. Before we had even been greeted or led to our table, questions and doubts about this restaurant were beginning to form.

The dining space was minimally appointed but attractive. Functional without being austere. That being said, there were service counters along one of its walls that were filled with a disarray of foodservice paraphernalia - cutlery, napkins, POS console, stacks of take out containers, and other such necessities that, while essential for day to day activity, were a cluttered distraction compared to the relative serenity of the dining room. It seemed that, while some degree of attention had been given to the seating area, very little thought was given to the service areas visible from the floor.

As you may already know, the look and feel of bathrooms is critical - easily reinforcing favorable impressions or compelling quick departures. In this case, it seemed as if the bathrooms, as with the bar, were an afterthought. Design was inconsistent with the dining room, the floors were wet and dirty, and the faucet encrusted with mineral deposits. The overall impact was disturbing - dragging initial impressions downward even further.

On the flip side, the wait staff (which included one of the owners) were attentive and efficient. Greetings were warm and welcoming, questions were answered cheerfully, and our needs were satisfied without delay.

The menu, an opportunity to set expectations and generate excited anticipation, was purely functional without creative merit. While easy to read, it failed to provoke our senses or communicate personality in a manner that would add to our overall dining experience.

The food was good - arriving hot, well presented, and straight from the kitchen. That being said, it seemed rather ordinary considering the somewhat higher prices listed on the menu.

The bottom line is that the impressions being made were generic and failed to make our overall dining experience joyful, memorable, or in any way satisfying. This place was adequate in terms of commerce - trading food for money - but was mediocre in ways that truly matter.

Knowing that restaurant failure is commonplace, it is critical for restaurateurs to do everything they can to create compelling experiences - employing excellence in design (graphic, interior, architectural), selecting appropriate music, checking for cleanliness and, in every possible way, offering delightfully provocative and memorable touchpoints that contribute to the sensory impact, appeal, and desirability of their operation. Why this place opted out of these considerations will remain a mystery, long after the place closes its doors - probably in a few months.

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Owning a restaurant is often a low-barrier attempt to achieve a better life but today's guests have had myriad fine dining experiences. You can't just wing it. While a minimalistic style with great service and food can succeed very well, dirt and clutter is unacceptable. Thank you for sharing.


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