By Shane Davis: SKH, Associate
With buzz worthy bars and restaurants opening at a continuously growing rate, it has become ever more difficult for owners to draw repeat customers, let alone establish a loyal customer base. In a time where social media outlets enable everyone capable of swallowing a piece of food to be a critic, now more than ever, operators need to take advantage of any opportunity to create an experience that differentiates their venue from the pack. Why would I go back to “that bar down the street with the solid burger and cheap beer” when I could go to The Breslin for the lamb burger everyone’s talking about, and a can of Pork Slap? Sure the mozz sticks at the Italian place on the corner are legit, but the foursquare check-in alone, makes the trip to Parm worth the cab ride. I guess the obvious answer is loyalty. People have always felt a sense of pride in places they can call their own. Neighborhood joints that nobody else knows about, that while their health grade seems to be perpetually pending, has, according to you “the best Pho in town.” But the reality is, if you’re the only one that knows about the place, chances are it isn’t lasting very long. The competition is stiff, and if you’re not relevant from the get go, it’s an uphill battle. So what’s a good, honest restaurant, lacking a WD-50 alum, extremely remote address, or a website so obscure it lacks a “.com” ending to do? The answer is obvious yet so rarely executed. Solid service creates memorable experiences. Memorable experiences create return customers. And if your GM isn’t passionate enough about their job to go the slightest bit above and beyond, e-mail Gabe at Gabriel@stevenkamali.com. Seriously.
As clichéd as Danny Meyer’s model of “enlightened hospitality” has become, its principles reign truer than ever. It’s the little things that matter. One small gesture that makes the customer feel like you care is all it takes. While the fact that you’ve waited two hours just to eat at the bar makes it obvious that these guys don’t “need” your business, they don’t take it for granted either. Brussel Sprouts, contortionist doormen on tricycles, kale, brail menus- All fleeting trends. Hospitality is not. The wave of food culture that has swept over society can work both ways for restaurateurs. As more and more New Yorkers become inundated with reruns of Restaurant: Impossible and Kitchen Nightmare on their DVR’s, now more than ever, operators must take their customers ability to judge seriously. Everyone’s a critic. Every meal is dissected and scrutinized. But do it right and New York will surely take notice.