Eposability are restaurant consultants and growth specialists, before reading this blog why not find out more about us. In the first part of this series I covered business planning. In that post I stressed the importance of understanding your customers in order to properly plan your business. In this article you’ll have the chance to discover exactly why this stage is so crucial, and how exactly to do it, even if you’ve already started trading.
A common mistake that I see business owners make is basing important decisions on what they like. Branding, products, add ons – they are all selected according to the owner’s needs and likes. But ask yourself this: at the end of the day, who’s handing over the money for your offering? You or your customers? Obviously it’s your customers. So ensuring that you’re spot on with what your customers desire and need is hands down the most important aspect of your business.
And while there’s still room to make your own mark on your business – that’s what makes you special, right? – what will determine whether you flop or whether you succeed is how well you actually know your customers.
And this is why: people will only buy from you, and return and recommend you, if you understand them. Put yourself in their shoes; have you ever been somewhere where they’ve just known what you want? Chances are that you’ve even paid more for something because you are getting exactly what you want; in a great environment.
If you have not yet test traded, my advice is to do so. But before you even start with test trading, you should do some concrete desktop and field research to identify the needs of your customers as a starting point. I want you to uncover exactly what the problems are that your customers are facing, and from there you can work out how to best solve them. So they choose you and stay loyal, and not your competitors.
Here are some things to think about:
> What type of food do they like?
> Why are they visiting? E.g. meetings? A quick bite on their way somewhere? A social evening meal?
Industry Snapshot: Pret are spot on in this respect. Through reaching out to their customers and analysing their data they could see that 58% of their sales take place outside of lunch time. They also discovered that while their customers want great tasting, quick and convenient snacks they value a choice of healthy options. So Pret gives them exactly what they want with products like the Protein Snack Pot.
> How old are they?
> Male or female?
> Are they single or married or families?
> How do they want to pay?
> Are they cash-rich or cash-poor?
> How long do they want to wait?
> Are they time-rich or time-poor?
Industry Snapshot: Love ’em or hate ’em but Starbucks is a really good example of this. They know, for example, that location will play a large part in what their customers want; so they adapt their entire approach to how they deliver service in specific cafés. In business districts like Canary Wharf they offer their Mobile Order & Pay service to allow customers to order ahead and skip the waiting time, saving precious minutes on their way to work. Starbucks clocked on to the fact that customers rarely sat down to drink – what was crucial to them was ease and speed of service.
To enable this, Starbucks have totally re-designed the customer journey and flow through this café. They removed the usual furniture areas with seating that you would find in a typical Starbucks and now have no seats at all. This allows them to focus entirely on speed of service and output, and a beautiful new service style, which includes a 3-tier service style, beginning with a host and a touchscreen to place the orders or check-in customers who have ordered ahead. The customers, after placing their order, move on towards the next part of the flow which is payment and loyalty transactions. They then progress quickly towards the collection point where barristas are working hard in a synchronised and methodical approach to deliver consistent and high-volume output for the customers.
With all that said, caring about your customers isn’t enough. You also need to be clear on what they care about.
> Do they value the ethical sides of a business?
> Do they care about the provenance of their food?
> Are they health conscious?
Industry Snapshot: Let’s jump back to Pret again. Following customer demand and a double digit sales rise in vegetarian options in 2015, Pret opened their pop-up, Veggie Pret, in London in June 2016. Product development was strongly led by customer suggestions. This prompted brilliant word-of-mouth marketing when their customers – delighted to have their needs met – organically spread news of the new products to their network. The success of the store meant that it has now become a permanent site rather than the planned 4-week pop-up.
This illustrates another really important attitude that Pret have taken – actually listening to people’s opinions. It’s far too easy to follow through with the customer suggestions that back up what you already have in mind, rather than letting the customer steer your direction.
In such a competitive sphere, being able to go above and beyond by meeting values like these can give you the USP that defines your competitive edge