Restaurants – what’s your point of difference?
Restaurants have had it hard for the last couple of years. An unstable socio-economic climate coupled with the pandemic have caused a range of negatives, from rising prices and a lack of consumer spending power to staff shortages and a myriad of legislation to tackle.
Against this backdrop it may come as a surprise to learn that so many new restaurants are opening in 2023. A cursory glance through the hospitality publications’ headlines confirms that cities across the UK are seeing a slew of exciting, new restaurants opening their doors to customers seeking innovative new dining concepts and traditional British fare.
In what may seem like a period of relative uncertainty it may be tempting for restaurateurs to assume a lack of competition, but they would be wrong to do so. Newly opened competitors coupled with the rejuvenation of existing ones means established restaurateurs’ businesses need to stand out above the competition not just by being better, but by being different. Enter – drum roll please – the marketer’s favourite phrase: Points of Difference.
Before we go on, we acknowledge the groaning coming from some quarters at the merest mention of another marketing buzz phrase. Stay with us, though, because a recent encounter in the airline sector caused your Favouritetable blogger to ponder points of difference and the relevance in the restaurant sector.
Needing to take a flight, it was apparent that all of the airlines’ booking engines were pretty much the same – you know the kind of thing: choose your dates, tell them you don’t want ski equipment included and pay with a card. That was pretty much it. Then you are sent your boarding pass, which looks remarkably the same as any other, and some time later you get on the plane.
The plane itself looks the same as any other. As we’re talking European travel here, it is a single-aisle American or Euro-built aircraft with one comfort(less) class, non-reclining seats, one WC up-front and two at the rear, and four cabin crew who spend their time screeching into the p.a. system while hurtling around trying to sell us perfumes, sunglasses and scratch cards. All in all it is a rather formulaic experience and one which does not encourage the customer to to think “Wow! That was different”.
And this brings us back to your blogger’s point: without points of difference to help us make buying decisions, we are relying solely on price. That makes air travel, for example, a commodity purchase. So, without points of difference, restaurant meals could also be seen as commodity purchases and, frankly, we think restaurants are better than that.
After that rather long-winded preamble, here are three areas in which restaurateurs can score a hit over their competitors by being different.
What’s the backstory?
Everyone loves the story about how the restaurant came to be so restaurateurs should use it as a PoD. The backstory is the restaurateur’s one chance to drop the commercial mask and tell it like it is – to humanise, if you will – and reveal a truly unique tale which the competitors cannot tell. Think about the building and its heritage; its previous owners and uses; talk about you, the current custodians of the business and why you are there.
Any restaurant which makes a big deal of its “excellent customer service” is missing the point. Excellent customer service is the baseline in hospitality; it is the norm, the expected standard, it is what customers expect. What it isn’t is a point of difference.
What’s the difference between excellent customer service and memorable, different service? In reality it probably isn’t just one thing. Rather, it is a mix of people, their personalities and attitudes coupled with standards and operating practices designed simply to work every time. Getting the elements of this mix to work harmoniously with each other isn’t something that can be learned from a manual or a text book, rather, when the stars are aligned customers leave the restaurant saying “wow. Just wow”. Make it different to get that wow factor.
What’s your style?
Laid-back and chilled, fast and furious or professionally polished, every restaurant has a style – or should have. Thinking again of our marketers, there is probably a diagram with various interconnecting rings which they would draw to show the interplay between style elements. By overlapping various parameters (food style and service style, for example) we can devise a number of overall style models with varying levels of success (Asian street food coupled with click & collect might work; fine dining mapped onto burger joint service might not).
But style isn’t just about what’s on the menu and the mechanics of making it available, it goes deeper than that. Metaphorically it’s about the clothes the restaurant wears, how it talks and what it says. It’s about body language and tone, warmth and personality. And that, dear reader, is your brand and a subject for another day.
The restaurant sector still faces challenges, but owners cannot rest on their laurels. Stiff competition is out there which makes the need to be different, rather than just better, all the more important. Restaurant owners should pay particular attention to their own points of difference to avoid being seen by the public as a commodity purchase.
Favouritetable is contemporary, easy to use restaurant management software designed to increase bookings, efficiency, revenue and profits. Loved by restaurateurs and UK-based, it's the best value next-generation restaurant management software on the market.