Lasting First Impression

Restaurateurs – You Only Get One Chance To Make a First Impression

“You Never Get a Second Chance To Make a First Impression”

Restaurateurs, take heed!

What do customers notice the most? What qualifies as a make-it-or-break-it detail that you need do correctly, from the start?

The restaurant business is one we know well, so we’ll share our insights and thoughts along with those of Brian Duffy, who is a chef and restaurant consultant.

Recently, Chef Brian Duffy shared what details he believes work together to create a memorable restaurant experience.(, August 18, 2014)

Judging The Book

We’ve all heard the adage about not judging a book by its cover, but the “cover” of a restaurant – its exterior – “determines everything for what to expect on the interior.” As Duffy notes, “it’s about attention to detail.” No one wants to walk into a place with dingy windows, a parking lot littered with debris, or employees talking loudly on their cell phones near the entrance. You want your restaurant to be welcoming to customers.

 The Welcome Wagon

Your host/hostess is the physical representation of your restaurant, so they should look and sound appealing. Good posture, a smile, and enunciation go a long way toward making your customer feel welcome. Duffy’s tip: “When walking to the table make the guest feel comfortable, do not walk too far ahead and always interact.”

 No Mess on La Mesa

Chef Duffy has this to say about the table, “Settings should be clean and simple, with only the necessary plate and glassware… .” We’re going to go a step further and suggest that the tables should in no way be sticky, crumb-filled, or wobbly. No one wants to settle in for a meal, only to be inconvenienced by one (or more!) of these things. Also, please be sure to include a place setting for each person who’s dining, one that includes all necessary flatware with which to enjoy the meal. Your customers will be saying Muchas Gracias for your attention to detail.

At Your Service

When it comes to the etiquette of meal servers, we find that Mr. Duffy sums it up very well:

  • Servers should approach the table a few short minutes after they are settled. Never let [the customers] sit too long without a greeting or offering water.
  • Do the servers know the menu well? When someone asks for recommendations do they read off the entire menu or are they able to make suggestions?
  • Do they walk past other tables and notice dirty dishes without removing them? It’s important to anticipate whether a table is finished, and remove clutter as soon as possible.

Might we add that “service with a smile” goes a long way toward a positive dining experience? Food service may not be your ideal job, but please don’t take it out on the people around you.

What’s On The Menu?

Hopefully your answer to this question is somewhere in the realm of, “a good selection of items, with brief descriptions and prices”. If your menu reads like a book or doesn’t have a definite, logical layout, you may be creating a dining experience that is less than stellar for your customers. Also, it’s worth the time and effort to have one or two people spell check your menu. Seriously, do not skip this step.

 Behind The Scenes

You may not think that customers notice – or even care about – what goes on in the background of their dining experience, but they do. It’s important that there is no visible tension between management and staff, and that there appears to be a clear chain of command within the restaurant itself.

Also, as Duffy points out, “if there’s a closed kitchen, guests should not be able to hear chaos or yelling. [And] with an open kitchen, chefs need to remember they are on display and representing the restaurant.” No one wants to see their chef touching his/her hair, face, etc. while fixing a meal. Nor do they want to hear the commotion that occurs in a commercial kitchen.

Diners want an enjoyable, relaxing meal – hopefully a delicious one!

The Gist

If someone comes to your restaurant, it’s because they made a conscious decision that they’d like to spend their hard-earned money on a meal cooked to their specifications, in an environment that makes them feel welcomed and appreciated. You’ve got one shot at ensuring that they will: 1) become a repeat customer because they’ve enjoyed their experience, 2) recommend you to their friends and family, and 3) not leave a scathing review on Yelp or some other social media platform.

Did we forget something? Are there other details that you’ve found to be important? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!


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