Remember the last time you went on vacation, stayed in a hotel or cottage? Do you remember the dinners you ate, beverages you drank, and the atmosphere you were a part of? Most of us remember the pool, golfing after drinking a couple bottles of wine, or the Marco Polo game where dad got a “little aggressive”. Those are experiences, and within the food and beverage industry, we need to beef up (pun intended) our offerings to those who give us money, and more importantly, their time.

More than ever, in today’s world we need be offering an “experience” when dining. The days of going to a restaurant or bar, sitting down getting our grub on and leaving without debating if that was worth it, are over. We have found our guests who eat with us are looking for more. They are looking for that one thing to culminate their evening, combine quality and quantity and to remember the great experience they had. They can get a great filet mignon or “the world’s biggest hamburger” or some other gimmick to intrigue them just about anywhere.

The last time I was in New England, every third block had the “world’s best lobster roll”, or in Maryland, there were “best crab cakes.” Sure, there are 5 “world’s best crab cakes”! That’s like saying there are 5 Tom Brady’s, or 5 Tiger Woods in the world. News flash, there can be only one. No one energized the golf scene like Tiger, and no can still command an audience like Tiger; there is only 1 Tiger! What I’m saying is your food and beverage may taste ok, but does the guest feel like they are getting an experience, something different, unique, trendy, local, etc. when they dine at your free standing restaurant, pub, bar, or any other food and beverage outlet in your hotel?

Personalization

Just about every food and beverage outlet has Open Table, or some other reservations system. Now is the time to offer one aspect of the experience. Train your staff to remember not only faces, but also your guests’ names. At our River Landing Country Club, we try to know what the member drinks, and have it in front of them as they are sitting down and welcoming them by name. Even in tourist vacation areas like Key West and Los Angeles, many people come back year after year. Save their contact information with notes like “Mr. Simms likes to be called Bill, not Mr. Simms,” or saving their favorite drinks, “Bill likes his vodka tonic with a lemon, not a lime.” Regulars are much easier, and these subtle differences make an impact on the experience they are having. At our Mad Boar Restaurant we have our sister Holiday Inn Express in the same parking lot, and we get many repeat corporate guests. They love the fact that we remember them and what they drink, every time. This is that personal touch that keeps the costumer coming back for more. Creating regulars and addressing a guest by name simply adds to their overall experience and they will always remember you.

Trends 

Offer an experience goes beyond remembering a name, it’s offering what’s popular now, what do my guests want now, and how do we attract more potential customers while offering an experience…now?

We have all seen the giant pizza, or $99 hamburger, or having dinner rolls being tossed at you from across the room. These are fun food trends such as the Korean burst right now, ancient grains such as quinoa, faro barley, and more. This is fun, this is unique, and diners are looking for these experiences at just about every restaurant. At out Mad Boar Restaurant, we offer sriracha BBQ sauce with several items. Sriracha at an all about Pork restaurant? Yep! And why? Because sriracha is one of the hottest (pun, not really all that hot), sauces in America right now.

Again, trends are trends for a reason, same in the fashion industry. We need to offer these trends day in and day out, jump on the wagon at the right time, and off when appropriate. Are bell-bottom jeans still a thing today? Nope. But skinny jeans are and every producer is making them. Trends, it’s in, it offers an experience of “uniqueness”, and for food and beverage it can also be loads of fun.

The Area Does Not Define You 

Within most areas, we have restaurants, bars, and what have you. The restaurant does not need to mimic the area. What I mean is, just because the restaurant may be at the beach, if the surrounding restaurants are all seafood, then do a BBQ joint. All too often I see restaurant trying to match the area’s appeal of what it should be, rather than what the market and guests want it to be. Be different, market different, have a different name, something fun and unique, and offer an experience before the guest leaves your property.

Tableside Service 

I know, I know, I’m not telling you something that has not been done for many moons. I’m not just speaking of tossing a salad like Olive Garden, although is there really anything better than Olive Gardens breadsticks and salad?

I mean offering an experience such as searing the finale of a N.Y. Strip, or having a Parmesan pasta wheel and tossing pasta in it while scraping up the soft melting cheese from the heat of the noodles (sounds amazing) are things that set you apart from the others. Again, at our Mad Boar Restaurant we are shaking and pouring the margarita at the table. Your guests will remember the experience; the food will almost taste perfect, and the show will be told for many years to come. Any and everything that the guest can see or be part of will add to the experience of their evening, thus leaving the restaurant or bar engraved in their minds for many years to come.

Ambience 

You may think it’s simple, but ambience can push the experience over the hill like an avalanche: Does your ambience fit your menu? Does it fit your server/bartenders uniforms? Fit the lighting, sound, decor, views, plate presentation, music, and on and on? The ambience of your restaurant and hotel are the first and last moments to touch a guest. Do the menu and ambience match? I wouldn’t want a chic modern restaurant with a minimalistic feel with good ole southern BBQ food. Or vice versa, does your restaurant have wood on the walls, have a “country`” feel; yet you’re cooking spring rolls and tossing pasta? Ambience needs to fit the menu, period.

Identify what you are, what you want to be, and make sure ambience, style, color, and appeal are in line, because, as silly as it sounds, if the decorations, or the table and chairs don’t match the feel, then the experience just isn’t the same.

Be You 

Remember, any bar or restaurant can offer great food and beverage, yet the most successful offer the extra touch. That experience is the appeal for their guests. The moment a potential costumer walks in, it’s the details such as color, decorations, staffing, menu selection, etc. Sometimes, and in most cases, the guest doesn’t even notice these things, and it’s almost subconscious as to the reasons why they like it. Stand out, be different from the competition, and never be afraid to challenge yourself to change

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