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The power of first impressions


The news is awash with stories about the travails of the restaurant sector – outlet closures and restaurant chains going into administration seem to be all that we can expect.

And yet the British consumer is spending even more on eating out than ever before. So what’s really going on? The clue lies in the large numbers of restaurants that have been launched in the last five to 10 years coupled with a slowing down in consumer spending. At a fundamental level this means there just isn’t enough business to keep each and every one of those shiny new stores trading profitably.

The restaurants that are succeeding in this highly competitive market are those that provide something different – whether it’s the food on offer or the experience that customers expect. It’s not always about the big things though, it’s just as important to make the small things into the very best that customers can find anywhere.

A great place to begin is right at the start of the customer’s experience. Walking in to a restaurant – or indeed any place where people go to eat out, whether it’s a pub or a hotel or at work – is the point when customers are waiting to be impressed. So impress them with a clean, bright welcome.

And it’s not only in the restaurant area that customers are waiting to be impressed. Time and again, surveys, not to say everyday experience, tell us that the toilet is a key place on which customers base their judgement not just about the cleanliness of a restaurant but on the way in which it makes diners feel welcomed. And getting cleanliness wrong or not doing it properly can be very costly. Your customers, like people everywhere, will be very happy to tell their friends about toilet “horror stories” and share their bad experiences on social media.

By the same token, keeping this small toilet area clean and neat pays off in terms of enhancing the customer’s experience. And it can be done in the simplest of ways. For example, making the cleaning log visible – and keeping it up to date! – is a great sign that you care. And of course, keeping pipes shining and rust free, making sure the floor isn’t littered and ensuring that surfaces are clean are all hugely influential ways to create that all important positive customer experience.

Choosing the right cleaning product can also make all the difference. Products formulated for professional use, like those in the P&G Professional range, can get the job done right the first time. The Flash Professional System is comprised of four multi-purpose cleaners that can help keep toilets and floors clean and in top condition. Each are accurately dosed for safety and cost control.

The key to all of this, not only in the toilet area which customers see as reflecting standards in areas they can’t see, like in the kitchen itself and front of house operations, is ensuring that staff are trained and aware of the importance of a clean operation. Constantly wiping down tables, making sure that only sparkling glasses are set out, and cleaning up food as soon as it has been dropped on the floor are just some of the things customers notice. These are so simple for you and your colleagues to do, to make your restaurant stand out as somewhere special in today’s highly competitive market.

Written by Peter Backman, a member of P&G Professional’s Expert Advisory Council.

With many years of experience as a consultant and analyst, his expertise and knowledge extends across the whole eating out market, and its supply chain – in the UK, Europe, the USA and the Middle East. He enlightens senior management in operations, their suppliers and investors, and his views are constantly sought by the media, trade associations and other organisations active in the eating out and hospitality markets.

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