Written by Liam Jones | Founder of Foursquare Group
I love spending time in restaurants, not necessarily because I’m a huge foodie, but more because I love the atmosphere, the vibe, and the experience.
I host a podcast called ‘An Hour With An Indie’ on which I’m privileged enough to speak with leaders of independent hospitality businesses every week. I’ve spoken with some of the most loved and revered restaurateurs and also those who are just getting started. I’m passionate about independent business for many reasons, but one of those reasons is because of how connected we, as a society, are to them.
No matter where you live, what you do or what age you are, you will undoubtedly be emotionally invested in the hospitality industry. We share our best and our worst moments with these businesses. Whether it’s a 30th birthday, a catch up with friends or a drink alone after a sad life event, hospitality means so much to us all.
And more than that, independent restaurants, coffee shops and bars are that extra bit more important to us. They are embedded within our community, they create the culture and tone for our villages, towns, cities and suburbs.
But this relationship isn’t one way. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the course of 50-odd podcast episodes, it’s that the relationship between restaurant and customer is equally important in both directions. The relationship needs to be nurtured before it can bloom into something magical.
This nurturing takes time and time is not a restaurateur’s best friend. The industry is notoriously time-poor. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant. One of our products, Pilla, helps busy hospitality leaders manage their compliance in a fraction of the time that they would usually spend but this is just one task, there’s also ordering stock, managing people, creating new dishes and everything in between.
Of course, the customer doesn’t care about any of that and why should they? It’s the operator’s job to utilise the right tools which makes all the back of house actions oblivious to the customer so they can focus on the most important thing – customer experience.
So how does an independent restauranteur build a meaningful connection with its customer base, which we know is so important but, in a timely, efficient way – tech of course.
Tools like Superb, make it so much easier for operators to collect the right type of data about their customers. Data which will make an impact on their relationship and allow a personalised service. Because we (society) have such as strong relationship with our independent hospitality businesses, we want a service that feels intimate from start to finish. We want to feel like the owners know our names at every step and feel like we are more important than the previous guest.
Peter Kinsella from Lunya described this really well on episode 48 of the podcast. He and his wife, Elaine, started a Spanish restaurant business a decade ago and one of the biggest (pleasant) surprises to them, was the level of interaction and quality relationships they would build with their customers.
I’m not sure whether Lunya uses a tool like Superb, but they certainly understand the tangible benefits of building a strong relationship with their customer base. Having eaten at Lunya, I know that Peter and Elaine will bend over backwards to make sure their guests have exactly what they want.
However, there is more than one way to provide an amazing customer experience and build a community around your brand. This was evident when I spoke with Mike and Alex, Co-Founders of Sugo Pasta Kitchen. The pair have built a passionate crew of supporters who really believe in their brand and idea.
Interestingly, Sugo has gone about things in a very particular way. They do not bend to the will of their customers. Instead, they somewhat stubbornly, provide their version of a fantastic restaurant experience. During the podcast, Mike explained that when visitors dine with them, they want the customer to “enter their world” and experience exactly what Sugo is about with no compromises.
Each restaurateur will and should use their own personality and values to create their own unique connection and customer experience with their customer base – that is exactly what makes an independent business so attractive to visit.
Whatever your style, using tools like Superb will make the job a lot easier. It will ensure that you, the time-poor restauranteur, can place enough importance and emphasis on the most important part of your business – the customer experience.