Restaurant RITUALS Really Ruin Revenues

March 5, 2007

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Selling with psychology is a very important key to successful selling. Don’t let the words “Selling with Psychology” scare you. It’s nothing more that knowing your customer very well –I mean really getting inside their head. We all know that the first step toward effective selling and marketing is to “know thy customer”, right? That’s marketing 101. It’s not until Masters-level marketing that we learn about the rituals, paradigms, memes, and social mores that create customer action or inaction.

Let’s talk about the deep heavy stuff that really makes a difference – the connection between your customer’s brain and their cash money.

Most psychological sales pros would tell you that getting the attention of your customer is the first step toward a successful campaign (ever heard of the AIDA Method?). With all of the ads that are thrown in our faces on a regular basis and from every conceivable medium, it is no wonder that response rates are dropping like wardrobes at the super bowl. This is leaving more that a few marketing managers exposed. Well, don’t find yourself flailing about in the cold. Take a look at your patterns of attention getting and change them if they are cliché’. Don’t do things as people would expect. You must BREAK from the NORM to get noticed.

 

This is NOT another lip-service blog to “Thinking outside of the box.” This is about discovering the things that you are doing that are in the box, so that you can then make the changes. You probably didn’t realize that YOU ARE SO BOXED IN!

A pattern of thinking or a paradigm is often simply a rote way of doing things. In our case it’s our restaurants and retail establishments! We’re enforcing clichés and routines that lull our customers to sleep and allow them to put us in a box in their collective brain for safe keeping.

 

In restaurants these days so much has become ritualistic. To the point that if you don’t do it according to the ritual you are somehow missing the boat or doing it all wrong. If that’s what this means to you then you just don’t get it. I’ve been to the most popular Mexican food place in town only to find that the servers could not even speak English–much less make an up-sell or ask, “Did you guys save room for an dessert this evening?”

What I’m saying is that there isn’t a “wrong way.” Some restaurants succeed without even speaking the same language of the majority of customers. Could it be that the most popular way is the “wrong way?”

 

Bottom line: The way to really do this “psychology thing” right, and move your customers to action, is to break them out of their usual patterns of thinking.

Do something other than what they expect. Maybe the reason that non-English speaking restaurant is so popular is precisely BECAUSE they DON’T speak English! Customers are taken aback, they look at each other and laugh at the irony. Then they point to the item on the menu that they would like.

 

Remember This? “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.” Of course you do! Those words were preceded by the most god-awful beep that seemed to last so incredibly long that you thought your ears would bleed and you would go insane!

 

What that was doing was breaking you out of your pattern of thinking and causing your brain to have to listen.

 

Am I suggesting that you beep rather loudly and obnoxiously at every customer that comes in your door? No, but the concept is worth looking at very closely.

 

We have become like the family that lives near the train tracks. If you ask them when the last time the train went by they couldn’t tell you. They are so accustomed to hearing that train go by that they don’t even hear it anymore. Could it be that your hostess, servers, menu and marketing messages are nothing more that a freight train running through the backyard?

 

The truth is that you are most likely lulling your customers to sleep with ritualistic server behaviors and restaurant ceremonies. Don’t get me wrong, if you were going by a textbook or if you were graded on presentation in a classroom you would be making straight A’s. The things your servers say and do, and the way you market your store are very popular ways of doing “it.” See, that’s the problem.

 

Customers are so ‘used to the restaurant way” that they don’t stop and take note –exactly no notes taken – not mental, not written, not visual, not oral, not olfactorial (is that a word?).

 

What are your retail or restaurant rituals?

 

What are your marketing and advertising patterns?

 

Do your servers ever say or ask any of these popular phrases?

 

“How many in your party?”

“Smoking, Non or First Available?”

“Right this way”

“Hey guys what can I get’ cha?”

“Let me tell you about our specials today…”

“Did you want to order some appetizers tonight?”

“Have you decided on drinks?”

“Did you guys save room for dessert, tonight?”

 

Of course they do. If you have trained them to be a server, you’ve trained them to say such things, right?

 

I remember when the whole notion of, “Let me tell you about our specials today…” came about. That phrase, like all the rest, was non-existent at one time. It was “introduced” by a very savvy restaurant owner that was “doin’ it different.” Well it caught on, and now the ritual is performed at many higher-end establishments across the world. At first it was unique and different and it caused you to listen. The more you listened to the server go on about the “creamy-white wine sauce” the hungrier you became and finally you just said, “forget the menu! Bring me that special.” It worked great when it was new.

Now you have probably had this experience, as I have. You sit staring at your menu trying to ignore the waiter that has forgotten the “script” and he can’t exactly remember the specials of the day and he stumbles through it and finally, embarrassed, he walks away. Sometimes they don’t even wait to see if you want it. They blurt it out apologetically, and then they run off to go get your drink order. It all happens in one motion, by rote memory. It’s become a ritual. For server and served.

 

I’m not saying you should stop suggestive selling. I’m saying you should require your servers to do something different. What if they just asked, “ever had our creamy-white wine sauce?” Whatever the answer, he would then say, “Well it’s delicately poured over a gently seared piece of yellowtail for the special of the night. It’s mouth-watering and should be experience by every customer at least 5 times a month. Is tonight your night?”

Here are few ideas that will shake things up…

Don’t Say This…
“How many in your party?”

Try this instead…
What size table would you be comfortable in tonight?

Don’t Say This…
“Smoking, Non or First Available?”

Try this instead…
You’ll be in the non-smoking section will that be okay?

Don’t Say This…
“Right this way”

Try this instead…
Let me show you the perfect table for you guys

Don’t Say This…
“Hey guys what can I get’ cha?”

Try this instead…
I’m here to help with the decision making if you need it…

Don’t Say This…
“Let me tell you about our specials today…”

Try this instead…
Have you experienced our creamy-white wine sauce yet?

Don’t Say This…
“Did you want to order some appetizers tonight?”

Try this instead…
Our most popular appetizer is a big bowl of melted cheese that’s great for chip dippin’ We call it Queso. Quires Queso?

Don’t Say This…
“Have you decided on drinks?”

Try this instead…
You look like you might enjoy our frozen strawberry margarita. It a nice treat after a long day.

Don’t Say This…
“Did you guys save room for dessert, tonight?”

Try this instead…
(Lunch) Here are 4 homemade rolls to take back to the office…in case you need a snack later.
(Dinner) We just brewed a fresh pot of coffee and the cheesecake looks great tonight…want some?

 

 

 

I dare you to try that. Do you think you’re sales for that particular item would increase? Hello!!!

 

If you are reading this, I am begging you to try this out and come back to my blog and let me know what happens.

 

Until then…Serve with Style!

 

 

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