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First Impressions: Key to a Restaurants Survival

I’d like to be your hero today. You can call me “Captain Obvious.” Now before you roll your eyes and walk away, hear me out. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day drama that generally enshrouds the restaurant industry that we lose focus on the basics.

Remember when your favorite librarian told you never to judge a book by its cover? If we’re being honest, most of us have to admit that this particular adage never really stuck. We humans are really very simple creatures. We judge books by their covers and people by their shoes.

First impressions are the ones that last, and when the success of your restaurant is in question, first impressions are everything. Not only are they the most important, they are the easiest to control. As your hero, Captain Obvious, I feel it is my duty to share with you this list of, appropriately enough, obvious ways to make a great first impression.

  1. The voice on the other end of the phone: What actually happens when a guest calls your establishment? If your busboy, who may or may not be a native English speaker, is answering the phone to the accompaniment of clanging dishes and shouting chefs, it’s time to reevaluate your system. Make sure that your telephone greeters are professional, well-spoken, and are answering the phones in a somewhat quiet area.
  2. Your website: If you don’t have a website by now, get one. If your website appears to have been designed by a raccoon, fix it. Either way, it will behoove you to hire a professional to really do the job well. Like it or not, if a potential guest Google’s your restaurant and is disappointed by your site, he won’t be joining you for supper. Your website should be simple, navigable, and professional. As your primary means of introduction to all the strangers out there on the inter-web, you better make it count.
  3. Your host: The first person that you see as you waltz into a restaurant is generally the host or hostess. This person should, first and foremost, be smiling and genuinely warm. Because the host/ hostess position tends to be one of the most transient in a restaurant, you might be tempted to simply hire the nearest model/ actress looking to make some extra cash. This is a mistake.  When hiring a new host, look for hospitality, eloquence and grace. It goes without saying that your hosts must also be clean, well-groomed, and attractive. This is your first line of defense: don’t blow it.
  4. The bathroom: I know a few people who walk into a restaurant, breeze past the host and wait-staff, and proceed directly to the bathroom. If it is dirty, they pop a U-turn and proceed directly back outside to find an alternative place to eat. The cleanliness of your bathroom reflects the cleanliness of your kitchen. If you think you’re too busy to clean your bathroom, I’ve got great news: you won’t be busy for much longer. In other words, clean your bathroom: keep your customers.

These, of course, are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear about the ways that you succeed in making a great first impression, so please feel free to comment below!