When you search on the internet for ‘angry chef’ it’s either Gordon Ramsay’s face or a stock photo of a chef with a knife raised. Ramsay is the highest earning celebrity chef of all time, having built a current fortune of $US175m from being the angry, short-tempered and quick-witted chef who has been filling our TV screens for the last 17 years, and we have 25 of his restaurants to chose from around the world.
However, while the irate chef might make good television viewing, when it becomes part of your restaurant experience, it’s bad for business.
It’s notoriously hard to make money in Australian restaurants, with the fight for the dining dollar being fought every day across every sitting. And it is only getting harder. Brand, reputation or location is no longer enough to draw in customers. Great restaurateurs such as Tony Bilson and Justin North know this lesson all too well.
This is why restaurants now need to be stage shows in a sense – entertaining from the moment you set eyes on the building to when you see the interior and décor, and feel the ambience. Staff literally go to wardrobe and get their hair styled when they arrive for their shift, table arrangements are changed daily, there’s live music. Gowings Bar and Grill is a perfect example of this, with their red-wigged ‘Directors of Chaos’ on the door as you arrive. Meanwhile, Del Posto has their pianist playing throughout the night. Then there’s Radisson Blu Hotel in Zurich who have ‘wine angels’ inside their eight story high glass wine cellar, doing trapeze as they retrieve your chosen wine.
In a world where word of mouth, or word on the internet in the form of reviews and websites like Tripadvisor are now king, the restaurant experience really is one of the best marketing tools money can buy. It’s not just about your advertising or email marketing anymore – this should be an extension of your restaurant experience. And the ‘experience’ starts from the moment you look at a restaurant’s website, make a booking, to when the plate lands on the table.
So, any restaurant that wants to be competitive in this tough market should follow these five pieces of advice:
1. Take bookings
The no-booking policy is a repellent from a restaurant. If the hottest NYC restaurants can take a booking, then we should be able to get a table in Sydney.
2. Sassy staff
Attitude and spunk is part of our culture, so your staff should be encouraged to show elements of their personality. However, knowing the restaurant and menu inside out is also paramount.
3. Speedy first drink
The more we drink, the more we form blind spots to pricing. So incentivise your team around the first drink to the table being the most critical part of the night. Everyone wins.
4. Think inside out
Make your kitchen visible – we want to see the slow dance and control coming from the heart of the restaurant. But get rid of any angry chefs. Remember, as much as we love watching Gordon Ramsay, we don’t want to hear or see this kind of behaviour when we are eating.
5. Mindful marketing
Marketing is not just having a website or Facebook page. While ensuring your restaurant experience is top notch and is aligned with your advertising, there is also some basic marketing you should look into. Online retargeting, for example, can reach people searching for restaurants such as yours. Perhaps people have been to your website and nearly booked, or you could find people with online behaviours which match the ideal profile of a high-value diner for your establishment. It will definitely pay to invest in some strategic marketing tools alongside the wonderful dining experience you have created.
Lauren Fried is the MD of Pulse Marketing.