It’s every waitperson’s worst nightmare. A tray full of hot food goes flying in the air like a drunk drone.

It’s a Saturday night at a popular new restaurant in Tampa called Ulele. The experience was much more traumatic. The waitperson was coming down a flight of stairs smack in the middle of a crowded bar. Plates and glasses were shattered as they hit the hard floor. Steak knives dropped six feet narrowly missing standing guests.

It was bad.

And that precarious crash was just one of the elements that moved this hot restaurant from one of choice and even recommending it to others, to one that has a bad dent in their brand from a miserable experience.

What’s tragic is they are doing so many things right to build a great restaurant brand.  They have an intriguing menu, a fresh concept, beautiful décor and more customers than it can serve. It takes a month to get reservation, all a dream for most restaurateurs. Congrats on all of that!

How one night deflated all of those good branding efforts.

My party had reservations that were made over a month ago. The hostess team did not get that memo and we had to wait for over an hour. Waiting for a table at a popular place is not unheard of and unfortunately reservations do get lost.

The ugly breakdown is how the bar, traffic logistics and bar menu lacked customer experience planning. The bustling servers and customers waiting for tables collide like a train going down a one-way street and running over everything in sight. It’s a big, stressful mess and no way to start a brand experience. By offering a full menu at the bar, the slow customer turn builds up the back up even more. And carrying food up and down a flight of stairs is a lawsuit in the oven waiting to happen.

There has to be a better way.

Does the leadership not care about the customer experience? Has their fast success made them blind to the customer’s dining journey?

Every operator from fast-food to fine dining should regularly walk in the shoes of the patrons, step-by-step from the parking lot, to the bar, to the restrooms obviously the dining room.  A restaurant’s traffic flow, the logistics of how wait staff delivers food and even decisions on what is or is not served in a high traffic waiting bar matter.

Here’s a few items that should be visited by management often.

  • Is the parking lot well lit and safe?
  • If you take reservations, how do you confirm them?
  • If there is a mistake, how do you handle an upset customer?
  • Is your waiting over flow area as comfortable as it can be?
  • Is your food delivery path, design with your service staff and the customer in mind?
  • Is it easy for customers to order while they are waiting for their table?
  • Does your bar menu make sense when the restaurant is backed up?
  • How are incoming calls handled when the restaurant is packed and loud?

After you invest so much time and money to create a memorable and stellar restaurant brand, don’t put it down the drain because of poor planning and lack of auditing on what your customers truly experience.

Do you a question for us? We’d love to answer it here on the blog. You can email us jring[at]restaurantbrandingroadmap[dot]com or reach us on our Facebook page or Tweet us.

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