Like you, I’m exposed to plenty of ads and messaging from suppliers and vendors around the restaurant industry. This week, I saw an email from the manufacturer of a table base system. It said something like ‘a wobbly table hurts your brand.’ At first I shrugged it off. But I came back to the email a few times. I found something about the idea surprisingly true.
I’ve written before about the ways proactive brands can improve experience for guests over a series of visits. Experience. That word keeps popping up. It’s inconsistently understood. In the restaurant industry, we should consider replacing the word ‘experience’ with its predecessor: ‘brand.’
Honestly, which part of the experience is excluded from your brand? The ‘experience’ is meant to be the physical and emotional manifestation of the brand. Of course a wobbly table reflects on the experience. It’s indicative of the care put into your guest’s visit. In a sit down environment, a wobbly table sets the tone.
When we think about brand, we think about emotion. Some things are taken for granted (or – table stakes, sorry.) The table is an obvious example. A wobbly table is a distraction, “If this table is off kilter, what else did they miss?” What else is taken for granted by guests? Food. Service. Cleanliness. Beverage. If it is a repeat visit, maybe music or atmosphere. Essentially everything.
Which part do you think doesn’t reflect back on the brand? More important question. Which part do you think your best customer is willing to let go? As an operator, we understand all the millions of things that can go wrong with any particular visit. On top of labor, service issues, food prep, and the basics of having a running restaurant – all within the guidelines of a master brand – we have to make sure the tables don’t wobble?
But only if you want the optimal experience for your guest. More importantly, how does a server or staff member react when the guest complains about the table? This is where the small problem may become magnified. Because you cannot guarantee that no table will ever wobble across your entire system, training staff to handle that complaint with a smile is all the more critical.
We’ve seen that customers are almost expecting some small mishap with their meal or experience. Most (no, not all) people are polite when bringing that first complaint. The brand isn’t tainted for them when the table wobbles. It becomes tainted when the wobbly table becomes a story about how the brand let them down, when things weren’t improved.
For years, people have been reading that “the customer has control.” That is obviously overblown. It’s a misnomer because the customer does have some control of the choice they make. But the brand has control over the details and managing experiences. The customer didn’t undercook the chicken or make the table wobble. The customer takes control when those things aren’t remedied to their satisfaction by not coming back. Or worse, writing a review.
Remember above – we replaced the word ‘experience’ with the word ‘brand.’ Now replace the word ‘table’ with the word ‘brand.’ Each of these components are an important part of your brand. The more you believe the guest experience is a differentiator for you, the more you need to take back control of those details. Because the table is the brand. Wobbly or not is up to you.
Credit to Flattech for inspiring this article. They were in no way compensated and did not participate in the content.