Getting Past the Menu

How can searching for the perfect meal in a really nice restaurant teach us valuable lessons about our own business?

I am sure like myself most of you absolutely love dining out!

After all enjoying a good meal in a good restaurant is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a bad meal is a huge disappointment and feels like a wasted opportunity and will leave you totally disgruntled.

Have you noticed with restaurant reviews that they talk about the food in intimate detail, examining each dish, discussing each flavour and the textures of the food – mouth watering stuff indeed!

I find it really interesting that most of the reviewers rarely talk about all the complicated steps that come before the food, which I find are often as important as the meal itself.

Ok, where am I going with this argument?

On holidays I always look forward to meals out – for me it is one of the very best parts of the holiday. In particular if you are in a place that you are not familiar with there is a fabulous sense of discovery and adventure as you search for the ‘perfect meal’.

Now this is where the difficulty lies – how to negotiate your way through the choices on offer and finally get past the menu and find the perfect meal?

If you have had the time to do your research in advance you may have been able to get your hands on some reviews, searched for restaurants on the web (how many restaurants have websites?) and then maybe visitors on Trip Advisor may give you a clue as to where to go.

Maybe some friends have been there before and can make a recommendation. No doubt they will have been through the same tricky process in trying to discover the perfect meal.

You may just wait till you arrive at your destination, study the local guide books and adverts or then again it might just be a case of hoping for the best and heading out and leaving it to your eyes and ears to decide where you will find the perfect meal.

If you are anything like me you will probably end up walking the streets and judging places by how the look. Very scientific!

What does the building look like, does it look clean on the outside, what kind of food are they serving, have a peep inside – busy or quiet, what do the staff look like – smart, casual or too casual, have a peep at the menu outside, what is your overall impression?

No doubt at this stage you will have looked at too many places, probably walked too much and starvation starts to kick in.

Eventually if you are lucky you will find a place that you are happy with or if you have been searching for too long you might just settle for a place that looks ok.

You are one step closer to the perfect meal.

And now for the closer look – the greeting, the cleanliness, the cutlery and the napkins, the toilets and the menu?

The menu – Besides the actual contents, is it clean, do the pages stick together with bits from previous meals, is it battered from overuse, are there pieces of paper covering over prices or menu items that have changed, are the menu items spelt properly? – chickne (I am not kidding!). How many times have you sat there and realised that you have probably made a mistake? – Get up and leave embarrassed or just give in and order and hope for the best?

It is your chance to have a perfect meal and you shouldn’t blow it!

Recently experienced the ‘sticky menu’ we did just that, admittedly having ordered a starter and some wine, consumed them quickly and moved on. The food may have been superb but we weren’t going to risk it. Eventually we settled on another restaurant and a not-so-bad meal was had by all but the holy grail of the perfect meal was never found.

When you get it right it is fabulous, when all the parts come then you do tend to tell everyone how great a meal you had.

Eating out can be tricky and very frustrating – maybe that is why we end up going to the same restaurant over and over, where we pretty much know what to expect. The low risk strategy!

So how does all of this relate to you?

In your business, whatever that may be, do your prospective customers get past your menu?

Greg Canty, Partner at Fuzion Communications

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