Could Five Million Dollars Fix Your Customer Experience?

Could Five Million Dollars Fix Your Customer Experience?

Could Five Million Dollars Fix Your Customer Experience?

By Richard McLeod, Loaded

I'm sharing a lesson I’ve learnt over and over again when opening a new bar, restaurant or cafe.

Could Five Million Dollars Fix Your Customer Experience?

I had an experience in Melbourne last week that I need to share with you. One that hammered home a lesson I’ve learnt over and over again when opening a new bar, restaurant or cafe.

I was sitting in a beautiful new restaurant on one of those seriously hot summer nights in the city. The fit-out the team had put together was absolutely impeccable. Faultless, right down to the very last chopstick.

It was busy, and this incredible fit-out came together with the menu, the music, and the lighting in absolute harmony. It felt great to be there soaking it all in, benefitting from the seriously polished creative work that had gone into getting the doors open.

Yet…I give it six months before its nightly covers drop by 50%.


Because the poor front-of-house manager who greeted and seated us hadn’t been trained on how to do their job. They weren't supported with anything resembling a system or process for ensuring a brilliant or consistent customer experience.

No one was greeted in a style that matched the quality fitout. Drinks and food orders were taken haphazardly, and then came out in much the same way. Physically waving someone over was about the only way to get service when we needed it.

Fit-out: exceptional

Customer experience: anything but.

I felt sorry for that front-of-house manager. If you don’t have the right customer experience systems and training in place (which they clearly didn’t), then it's always going to be hard to expect the rest of your team to ensure every customer leaves having had a sensational experience.

So why the disconnect? Because, relatively speaking, nailing a fit-out is fairly straightforward. Aside from the right design partner, the main thing it takes is money. But nailing customer experience takes training and system development and implementation. And that stuff is hard. Really hard. You can’t just throw money at it.

What's the answer, then? What would I tell this restaurant?

Well, in much the same way you design the fit-out of your bar or restaurant, you have to design what you want your perfect customer experience to look like. You have to write it down. You have to get help from visual designers who will make it as easy as possible to communicate the customer journey with your team. You have to find a way to set standards that your team will buy into, make sure you invest time in your managers until the plan is their absolute bible, and make sure they’ve got dedicated time in their schedule to train their team to execute on it exactly as you have planned.

Sound hard? That's because good hospitality is bloody hard.

But it's a whole lot better than pairing a new $5 million fit-out with a guest experience that’s guaranteed to give you fewer customers in six months' time than you had when you opened.

Like I said - I've learnt this lesson over and over when opening new venues. Money only gets you so far. To nail the best possible customer experience, you need to give it the same level of importance as you do your fit-out.

If you ever want any tips on this that are specific to your business, or just a general sounding board, reach out any time.

Go well, and talk soon -


What specific customer experience training programs or methods are most effective for the hospitality industry?

In the hospitality industry, the effectiveness of customer experience training is greatly enhanced by methods that engage staff actively and mimic real-world situations. Interactive workshops, for example, provide a dynamic learning environment where employees can gain insights into best practices and innovative service techniques directly from industry experts. Role-playing and customer service simulations take this a step further by allowing staff to practice and refine their skills in controlled, yet realistic scenarios. These methods not only help staff understand various customer perspectives but also equip them with the confidence and adaptability needed to handle diverse and challenging situations, rapidly improving their ability to meet and exceed customer expectations.

How can a restaurant measure the ROI of investing in customer experience enhancements compared to physical fit-outs?

Measuring the ROI of customer experience enhancements involves a nuanced analysis that goes beyond basic revenue tracking. By examining customer satisfaction scores, you can gauge the immediate impact of service improvements on customer perception. Repeat visit rates offer insights into the long-term loyalty effects of these enhancements, telling you whether improved experiences are compelling enough to drive repeat business. Online reviews give you a public barometer of customer sentiment, reflecting both strengths and areas for improvement. Then, dissecting sales data pre- and post-enhancements will give you a direct link between service investments and financial performance.

Could Five Million Dollars Fix Your Customer Experience?

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