Unfortunately for the restaurant, we won't be back. It's not that the food was bad or that the service was poor, it's just that it wasn't good enough to make me into a raving fan.
Many restaurants put too much of their marketing focus on getting new customers. The business creates new coupons or promotions to build excitement and buzz in order to get new people in the door. In fact they focus so much on getting new customers they forget sometimes to take extraordinary care of them once they arrive .
The really tragic thing with our dinner experience was that our server ASKED us if we'd been there before, and we said "No". That should have been the call to action for something special; something to really "WOW" us so that we'd be back. But it wasn't.
So what should the restaurant in question have done better? They should have gone above and beyond:
- At a minimum the service should have been impeccable. They should have done simple things that aren't seen in many restaurants such as crumbing the table between courses, announcing dishes descriptively, giving me a black cloth napkin so as to avoid white lint on my black pants, refolding my napkin when I used the restroom, etc. They should have done things above and beyond what I would normally expect. Instead, they didn't do anything out of the norm. They weren't even especially fast or overly outgoing.
- The manager or chef should have visited our table and welcomed us and thanked us for our first visit. They should have made a "big deal" about our being new customers in their establishment. We should have felt like we were special and important to them.
- Offering to add us onto their frequent guest program would have been a smart idea too. If they don't have a program (and I don't know if they do), they need to start one. This would have opened up a line of communication with my wife and me that could have been used to send us news about promotions, menu changes, etc.
- They could have sent us an amuse-bouche, or a complimentary treat of some type, as a surprise. Or, since none of our small group ordered dessert, they could have given a small dessert sampler to the table as a way to say "thank you" to their new customers, and entice us all to return again and have dessert next time.
- They could have sent us a hand-written "Thank you". Now, this would have required getting our address information so that they could open up a line of communication as I already discussed. But, "Wow", that would have made an impact! Imagine us receiving a "Thank you" via snail mail. No one does that anymore.