Customer satisfaction, or enthusiasm? Value is key.

by John Jones | Aug 01, 2022

Your Favouritetable blogger was in a restaurant recently and overheard the couple on the next table discussing the price of their meal. "This is expensive" said the guy. "It's five pounds cheaper at the take-away down the road. This place is a rip-off" he asserted as his partner chomped her souvlaki.

Now, at this point we should point out that your blogger generally adheres to restaurant etiquette but on hearing the above his sparkling water went down the wrong way and ended up all over the table in a comedy coughing fit.

What caused such a reaction? It was simply that we were sitting in a beautiful restaurant, overlooking the Aegean sea as the sun went down, being served rustic and authentic Greek food and attended to by the most charming staff. It was the kind of experience that you cannot find in a take-away container and frankly your blogger would have paid double for it. 

Clearly, the couple to my left really didn't understand the distinction between price and value

There are lots of definitions of the price Vs value equation, many of which are found in boring academic textbooks which take some deciphering. But in basic terms the price of a product or service should include core values in order for it to be deemed equal to the experience: quality, flexibility and speed come to mind. If these criteria are met, something in our mind says "hey, I don't mind paying that price".

But "not minding" paying for something is quite different to concluding that it represented great value, or even came with tons of added value. In the case of our Mediterranean anecdote, the added value was all of the things experienced which were distinct from that of buying a take-away (and we have nothing against take-aways, incidentally). 

Offering great value and getting a reputation for it is a holy grail for restaurateurs, because it creates loyalty and advocacy in the customer-base. Why is that important? Because it is always cheaper to service returning customers rather than new ones due to the lower cost of acquisition. If a restaurant has a large proportion of returning customers, they don't need to spend so much on advertising for new ones.

How many times have you heard a waiter ask a diner "Was everything okay with your meal?" and wondered why we just strive for satisfaction? Satisfied customers is hardly a ringing endorsement, is it? We want excited, enthusiastic customers who are loyal to the core.

That loyalty cannot be switched on; there's no magic tap from which it will gush on demand - it has to be earned through adding value to diners' experiences. Sure, diners will be satisfied with quality, flexibility and speed but they expect that anyway. To be truly enthusiastic they'll want to sense that extra magic; the x-factor (not that x-factor) and uniqueness which makes special memories and clear evidence of problem solving, information provision and wonderful after-sales.

Obviously not every restaurant is blessed with majestic views over the sea, particularly if the property is in a back street in, say, Northampton (and we have nothing against Northampton, either), but nonetheless there are steps which every establishment can take to drive upwards the perceived value of their product offer:

  • a flexible and easy booking or reservation process;
  • super-friendly staff who recognise and remember customers' personal preferences;
  • quality food and drink (local ingredients and a short supply chain are much in demand these days);
  • lovely material elements such as space, comfort and d├ęcor;
  • flexibility. Perhaps counter-intuitively, many customers see value in smaller portions because they allow them to pick & mix dishes to make a main meal;
  • green credentials. "We like dining here because we know they recycle/donate to food banks". It is a big plus point in the minds eye of modern diners;
  • after-the-event communications. The customer journey doesn't stop at the back door - customers greatly value personalised communications even when they've left the building.

Creating a high sense of perceived value need not be expensive for restaurant owners. in fact, high value low-cost touches are a win-win for the budget - for example, this blogger's local pub has done an amazing job of creating a wonderful shabby-chic environment with secondhand, unwanted and upcycled furniture.

Coming back to our holidaying diners, what they failed to appreciate was the whole package they were getting above and beyond the food eaten. They could have had a similar meal in take-away fashion, perched on the sofa of their holiday apartment listening to the air conditioning wheezing away, and paid five pounds less. 

But that's missing the point: what price authenticity, feeling cared for, and memories which will endure forever? In our view, those things are priceless. That's true value.

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