Over the past few months, Mr. Bartender and I have visited three steakhouses. One for my birthday, one for his and another because neither of us wanted to cook. I wanted to share my experiences with you because, in looking back, I was reminded of a few lessons along the way.
The first was a chain steakhouse (and I won’t divulge which one, mates.) It was the least expensive of the three. We had no reservation and didn’t wait at all. The food was tasty, service was very friendly. One complaint – the kitchen forgot Mr. B’s fries. Our server immediately took care of the issue by sending a manager over, who not only got us the fries but sent us home happy with a couple pieces of carrot cake (Mr. B’s fave so all was forgiven.)
The second was a very fancy steakhouse in a 5-star hotel on the beach – the most expensive of the three. My steak was undercooked; Mr. B’s overcooked. It was my birthday so the last thing either of us wanted to do was complain. The real clincher to the evening happened when we left – two valet parkers got into an argument over how much to charge us. The difference they were arguing about was $5. Full disclosure: The steakhouse did invite us back for a second visit. It’s just not the same when you have to go twice to get a meal right.
The last one was a mid-priced family restaurant. We went there because they have great carrot cake. Service was awesome, food was terrific. A perfect evening from start to finish. In fact, the restaurant called the next day to ask if Mr. B had a nice birthday celebration.
Now, I didn’t share these stories just so you know about Mr. B’s love of carrot cake and how much red meat I consume. There are some clear takeaways here about the customer experience.
- Expensive doesn’t always mean better. But if your product or service is expensive, customers expect better. People will spend money at places they feel deliver value. And if you don’t provide value? Don’t expect repeat business!
- Mistakes can happen and you’re able to recover. It’s always best to have the customer walk out the door happy instead of bringing them back for a second try (with elevated expectations and a critical eye).
- Service recovery doesn’t mean giving away an entire meal. Sometimes all it takes is a little piece of carrot cake to make someone happy (both figuratively and literally).
- Don’t drag customers into internal problems. Fix problems behind the scenes. Losing a high paying customer over $5 is a big huge ginormous (and pretty foolish) mistake.
Needless to say, a couple of these places we will probably visit again and another probably not. It all comes down to the value of the customer experience. Every business on some level strives for perfection but when something unexpected happens, it’s really about caring enough to fix it. And when I say “caring”, I mean having a specific recovery plan and making sure everyone knows and follows it.
Oh and one other thing…all of these restaurants were busy. Which tells me people are starting to have a little bit more discretionary income to spend. Businesses should put themselves in the shoes of their customers. If you’re looking for a place to spend your hard-earned money, which “steakhouse” would you go to?