We humans are a divided bunch of creatures. It would not be a broad generalisation, or a remote stretch of the truth to split us into two distinct camps.
The first distinct human condition is the dislike of change. This applies to anyone who has ever coined the phrase, “When you’re onto a good thing, stick to it”.
Always drive the same way home? Buy the same brand of laundry detergent? Travel to the same holiday destination year after year?
If you answer “Yes” to any or all of these questions, then you fit this mould – it’s safe to say you don’t like change. You are at peace when all is as it should be, or rather – as it has been before and will be again. There’s no doubt that an infinitely comforting certainty exists in the familiar.
That being all well and good, however – on the other side of the fence sits those who live to shake things up! If the pursuit of the exotic and up-to-the minute is your daily mantra, then you are part of the opposing human subdivision.
Anything new is to be tried at once – no such thing as brand loyalty, a holiday for you is either a mystery flight or a last minute leap over to anywhere – as long as it’s unfamiliar!
You shirk the mundane like it’s an infectious disease, you chuck a tantrum when faced with a night out at that same old place again. You would rather get lost in the back blocks than drive the same old route every day … You are a human chameleon – cheating the certainty of birth and death with uncertainty – peppered liberally throughout your existence.
So there you have it! Human nature for dummies!
When you own a restaurant, you need to dabble in some basic psychology. Understanding that loyalty is a double edged sword is helpful in that you realise that it is born AND made. Some customers are part of the first camp of change-resistant humans – they were probably initially dragged kicking and screaming (by a change-lover), but subsequently loved everything and then promptly made you their lifelong regular haunt there and then. Those customers were born to be loyal and all you had to do was actually get them through the door (the hardest part). And it doesn’t hurt to keep their favourite dish on the menu and keep it tasting just as good every time … ditto for remembering their names and reserving their favourite table.
Then there’s the other type of loyalty that has to be made, that doesn’t come naturally within an individual personality. This is the sort of customer who is chomping at the bit for you to open your doors for the very first time, the very chameleon of a person discussed in detail above who is desperately searching for something new day in day out. The most enormous challenge in creating loyalty lies with this person and their ilk … the inherently restless nature of this customer ensures that as soon as they try it, they’ll be over it. The attention span is short – the need to bedazzle them with bells and whistles to keep them coming back is paramount.
And you only typically get one chance – a failure to impress from the get-go means you’ve lost them, probably for good …
It’s a lot of pressure, but it puts the importance of first impressions into perspective and shows us that it is imperative to get it right every time. In a restaurant, as in any business, it’s essential to find that correct balance of familiarity and innovation.
You want to hold on to what makes you who you are and what drew people to you in the first place, but you also want to make things fresh and exciting – continually drawing on new knowledge and technology, projecting into the future to re-invent yourself in order to lure those who may tire of you back time and time again.
That is why in business, as in life, it is wise to never stop learning. There is no point which we reach, even after years of experience, where we truly master anything. What we think we know keeps evolving and changing in our modern world. To never be afraid that we do not know something, and to be eager to learn it is to invite success into our lives. That way it is possible to keep abreast of the new, to stay one step ahead of the chameleons …
Although come to think of it – it is kind of nice establishing a consistent dialogue with the customer, so ordering the same thing and sitting at the same table is a mutual benefit to all involved!