Watch any of the reality shows on television these days about being a chef or running a restaurant and you will see a repetition of the idea that good food is king. Forget that…GREAT food is king. However, there are many more facets to the restaurant business than just great food. To enjoy success, any restaurant needs to understand that food is only one of the key ingredients
Food Isn’t the Only Important Factor
Good food certainly is an important part of a restaurant; in fact, it’s the cornerstone of success. When people go out to eat, they want to enjoy a tasty meal. If restaurant customers wanted food that was burned, overcooked, undercooked, over-seasoned, or just plain bad, then they would have just stayed home, made it that way themselves, and saved a few bucks. Having good food is a basic requirement; but it’s not the secret to success.
A Los Angeles Times article points to increased competition in the restaurant business as a factor that minimizes food’s importance. If every restaurant has good food, what makes a customer visit one restaurant over another? Another article - this one in the Bloomberg Businessweek – points out that restaurants require a lot of time and commitment from owners; something that may lead to many restaurant failures.
The Intangible Factors
Restaurant patrons want the same things out of a restaurant that they want out of every place where they spend their hard-earned dollars. Whether the business is a restaurant, a grocery store, a clothing store, or a mechanic’s garage, patrons are concerned with getting their money’s worth.
One factor that is important is service. No one wants to spend money for bad service. Whether it is rude wait staff, a discourteous cashier, or a condescending mechanic, most people will be turned off by such behavior. Patrons simply won’t return to a restaurant where the service hasn’t been up to snuff.
Another factor that customers care about the whole world over is atmosphere. Again, it doesn’t matter if it is a restaurant or a supermarket, patrons want to feel comfortable. For a restaurant, that means a nice décor, comfy seating, and a clean environment. No one wants to pay to eat on a dirty table, in an uncomfortable seat, or where the design and ambiance of the dining room are jarring to the senses.
Each customer cares about these factors to varying degrees. Some customers are willing to overlook poor performance in one area if another area is really exemplary. For instance, some people will stand a degree of rudeness or inattentiveness by the wait staff if the atmosphere is really good.
Or, some patrons will overlook tables that are slow to be cleared and cleaned for a really attentive and personable wait staff. Each customer is different, but there are certain problems—such as having bugs or rodents—that just can’t be overlooked.
Having cheap prices is one factor that can make up for poor service or a bad decorating job. It can even make up for poor food – though nothing can make up for truly horrible food.
A Restaurant Can’t Be Successful without Good Food
Since there are so many aspects that contribute to the success of a restaurant, it may seem as if food doesn’t matter. It begs the question of whether a restaurant could be successful without good food, especially if all the other factors are first rate. The answer is no, a restaurant cannot be successful without good—or at least passable—food. While food isn’t the only ingredient, it is the most important.
Many people might point to fast-food restaurants as an exception to the good food rule. Yes, it might be bad for your health, but billions and billions of customers served did not choose to eat fast food burgers, fries, and shakes because they tasted bad. After all, there is an annual Best Fast Food French Fries survey that confers bragging rights to the winner. Those fries aren’t rated as such because they taste bad. Furthermore, fast food also has the low-price factor on its side.
At the end of the day, good food can’t stand alone to make a restaurant successful, but a restaurant cannot do a booming business without good food.