You need to ask yourself two big questions at your restaurant to see how good you are…
Can I get my customers to leave their homes, get off their comfy couches, drive past 30 of my competitors, fighting traffic along the way, with screaming kids in the car to come to me? Even new customers?
Ones that have never, ever been to my restaurant to try my fantastic food and exceptional service?
Let me give you an example of a business that does a really fantastic job of taking care of their customers by eliminating frustrations.
Image source: The St. Augustine Record / Peter Willott
I was recently in San Antonio speaking at a seminar and was intrigued by what some might think was a gas station called Buc-ee’s, which have locations throughout the state of Texas and other parts of the U.S. Trust me, they’re no gas station. They are more like gas stations on super steroids – they call themselves “travel centers.” I say they’re more like shopping malls that have gas pumps. If you are on the road in Texas, it will be impossible not to stop at one, and I highly recommend that you do. You won’t be sorry.
These travel centers are HUGE. The largest one holds the world record at 75,000 square feet. They have everything. Groceries, clothing, home goods, fresh food, all the snacks and drinks you can dream of, and they’re open 24 hours. They have a beaver mascot that emblazons everything. They sell mugs, hats, t-shirts, and Buc-ee Beaver onesies. He’s a celebrity in his own right, with a statue at the front door ready for selfies.
They turned Buc-ee’s into a destination business by removing three of the biggest irritations of customers stopping at a roadside gas station. Focusing on what your customers don’t want as much as what they want will help you attract and keep customers coming back to your restaurant.
Let’s use Buc-ee’s as an example and then “Buc-ee-fy” your restaurant.
Image source: The Springfield Daily Citizen / Jym Wilson
1. I don’t want to wait
Each location has over 120 gas pumps, so you never have to wait. And you can leave your car at the pump to go inside and not worry about irritating anyone in line behind you. They don’t allow 18-wheelers because they take up too much time and space at the pumps. There’s never a line. They want it easy for their travelers to come in and get out.
How do you apply this to your own restaurant? Your customers DO NOT want to wait for their bill. And when they get the bill, they’re ready to get cashed out and leave. Especially if they have small children. Nothing is worse than waiting 5, 10, or even 15 minutes after you give the server your credit card.
Don’t let this be the last impression for your customers. Train your servers to get their bill and cash them out quickly. Your customers will appreciate it. Some of our restaurant owners have QR codes on the receipts that people can scan and pay right from the receipt at the table when they’re ready to go with a mobile device
Image source: Alabama Life & Culture/ Joe Songer
2. I don’t want to use a dirty bathroom
The biggest worry most people have when on a road trip is finding a clean and safe restroom. Often, they feel unsafe, they’re not well-lit, they are filthy, and you have to go get a key with a big stick attached to it to get in, assuming someone isn’t already in there.
Buc-ee’s recognized that and have made it simple for their customers. They have been awarded the “Cleanest Bathrooms in America” by numerous online sources. It has become their claim to fame, and they spend a lot of money maintaining that title.
There are full-time attendants in the restroom cleaning. They’re immaculate. They’re well-lit. There are plenty of private stalls. In one location I saw, there were 33 urinals! And all were spotless.
This one is pretty simple: DON’T have messy bathrooms. And make sure the hand towels are full at all times. Have a checklist with your staff and one person assigned to check them every hour. That’s right, every hour. When you’re busy, maybe every 30 minutes.
This is super important because of the common saying: “If the bathrooms are dirty, imagine what the kitchen looks like!” You need to have a system and figure this one out. Hosts and busboys worked for me when I had my restaurants, keeping them clean and fresh. Have some fun with it.
3. Don’t Be Boring
When you are on the road, you have somewhere to get to. Making multiple stops becomes irritating. But at Buc-ee’s – you won’t have to worry about making another stop. They have EVERYTHING and more that you need for your road trip. Once they created the reason for you to choose them over all the other options available, they leveled up – and turned it into an experience, an adventure.
This is where the retail space comes in. Once you gas up the car, you head into the bathroom. To get to the bathroom, you’ll need to walk past all the proprietary delicious snacks and candy, hot bar-b-que, cold drinks, gifts, a bakery, toys, and countless other items that will catch your eye. There’s something for everyone. It’s all irresistible. Their inside retail sales make up two-thirds of their revenue, which is unheard of for a standard gas station.
DON’T BE BORING! Nobody wants to go to a restaurant to be bored. You’re in the entertainment business. Your job is to create a memorable dining experience. Not one that they can get at a fast food joint. What the hell kind of experience is that?
Ask yourself, “what else?” What else can you sell them? You have a captured audience of people who love you. What else can you sell them? They want to give you money and make it easy for them to do so. If they’re too full to eat dessert, pack one up for them to take home. They absolutely love your BBQ sauce on those ribs. Can I buy a pint? Always be thinking, “What else can I sell them?”
What You Can Take Away
Think about all the irritation points for your customers in your restaurant and set about to remove them. Is it your parking? Is it online ordering? Is it having to wait for anything? Is it flimsy napkins?
Step back, remove your owner hat, and put on your customer hat. Read your online reviews; there’s usually some great info there. Survey your customers and find out how to improve, then do it.
Fix all the customer irritations, and it will increase your business.
“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
That’s a Walt Disney quote, and he was the master at it. Eliminate those minor irritations for your customers, and they will be back again and again.
Ok, you got it figured out. You did a good job with all these points and created a memorable dining experience for your customers. Now what?
Market the heck out of it!
How? Glad you asked.
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Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.