Creating a better customer experience in the leisure and hospitality sector.
What constitutes a good customer experience?
We spend our designer days pondering this question and sometimes the oddest of answers surfaces.
As it did very recently.
Commissioned by specialist roll out company WMIH to create the new Ivy Restaurant in the heart of The Brighton Lanes we were given an interesting design brief.
“for women to leave talking about the toilets more than the restaurant”,
it seems they have done just that…
“And what a restroom it is, plush velvet stools lined against mirrors, a taupe velvet round bench seat in the centre, floral and gold wallpapers with the mellow voice of Ella Fitzgerald being played. Music that both myself and my Papa believe would be much more suited to being played in the restaurant, to create a more decadent and relaxed atmosphere. I could live in this toilet it was so luxurious.”
Hype around the toilets on the opening night saw ladies spending on average twenty minutes in the bathrooms taking photos and selfies.
So why did the owner of the Ivy restaurant give such an unusual brief? The Ivy is after all a very well rolled out - roll out – there’s nothing that seems downgraded or disingenuous. For a roll-out It ‘feels’ real and the experience lasts throughout.
The late, great Anthony Bourdain went in search of the perfect meal, it turns out that the perfect meal is the perfection of a combination of three Ps - Plate, Place, People.
I was having breakfast with friends the other day and we were enthusing about the Ivy and its popularity - To which one of the group said “Everyone wants to go somewhere that’s Instagrammable.”It’s interesting how selfies have become an integral part of the dining experience – it’s as much about eating good food In a fabulous place as it is about letting everyone know, that currently, you are eating good food in a fabulous place. As social media has played a greater part in our lives there is a stronger desire to be ‘seen’. Does this change the way we view restaurant experience? is it more about status than substance?
In this Social-centric world having something exceptional to post about is a desirable if not essential constituent of a night out. Do the three P’s become four? Plate, Place, People, Post?
So, this brings us to a question...
“Is there a formula, a mathematical equation, a ratio for great customer experience?” Something like “P1+ P2+ P3+ P4= E” where
E = Experience Quotient.
P1 = The quality of the food, the provenance of the ingredients, the creative interpretation of the dish.
P2 = Design of the environment, choice of décor, planning of space, spacing of tables , lighting, texture, sound, ambience.
P3 = The guests you are dining with, the staff who wait your table and the atmosphere you and your fellow diners create.
P4 = Instagram-ability/ Social
Much as Anthony Bourdain went on his quest for the best we are constantly looking for ways to improve, heighten, electrify the customer experience and whilst the notion of a formula for success may seem unrealistic, it’s clear that the introduction of a 4th P has had significant impact on the success of many high street eateries both from the perspective of brand awareness and from the context of rating.
According to Zizzi 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram and 30% of them would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.
With this in mind that P4 actually has a higher weighting than the other Ps so should we be adding greater weight to our equation?
P1+ P2+ P3+ (P4)2 = E
Some 59.5% of people following food venues have already spent money there or plan to do so in the future so it’s even possible to work out the value of P4 per head.
As designers of restaurant interiors our job is to marry the Ps together in such a way that the food, ambiance and environment are seamlessly intertwined into an irresistible culinary experience that leaves the customer in little doubt that they are amongst the fortunate.
And I think that is at the heart of creating great customer experience. Whilst it would be easy to place emphasis on any one of the four Ps the reality is, as in any great dish, to create the perfect restaurant experience requires the perfect combination of all of the Ps working in harmony with neither one nor the other taking too much of the limelight and unbalancing the mix.
Max Eaglen is the Director of Platform, a design agency that specialises in retail and leisure environments and works worldwide to seamlessly combine brand, digital and interior design services into a strategically focused tool for change, creating truly amazing, award winning brand experiences for staff and customers.