Why “The Experience” trumps “The Product”

Lil' Chef From France

Bon Appétit!

This week kicks off Restaurant Week in several cities across the country, including Kansas City. It is a great opportunity for restaurants to showcase their cuisine and entice food lovers to get out of the house and try a new establishment or revisit an old favorite.

In the KC metro, this annual event also serves as a fundraiser for a local charity as participating restaurants donate a portion of their profits at week’s end. The growth in popularity of this event over the last couple years has been impressive. So I encourage you to participate at least once.

Now for your “food” for thought…Some friends of ours recently returned from a trip to the Northwest. One of their stops was a hotel on the Oregon coast. They said it was possibly the nicest place they ever stayed. As we learned about the actual hotel, it became clear that it wasn’t the product (hotel), but the experience that catapulted this place to the top of their list. They showed us pictures of the rooms, the view of the Pacific, flowers, and more; all were impressive, but certainly not unique in that area. So what was it?

“The best things in life aren’t things.”

– Art Buchwald

Products and services are things. Creating “the experience”, was more about the details than the actual hotel or its location. One of the examples they shared was that one of them has very specific food allergies. During the reservation process the hotel captured that information. Upon their arrival, the chef had created not one, but several options to choose from for every meal during their stay. The combination of unexpected, appreciated and generous makes it the kind of thing that people will talk about!

“The Experience” creates an emotional connection, the actual hotel is just a thing; it simply can’t compete with human emotions. Combine a quality product or service with an emotional connection and you’ve struck gold.

Restaurants spend countless hours coming up with the perfect adjectives to describe the dishes they offer. As you read them, sometimes you can actually taste the food they are describing! But what happens if when you get there, your table isn’t ready, the restaurant staff is rude, it is too loud, too cold, or something else that effects your emotions? I think you already know the answer.

As you make your way to your favorite eateries this week, I encourage you to think about two things.

     #1) What is it that attracted me to this restaurant?

     #2) What is it that will bring me back? (Repeat Customer)

No matter how long or short your answer; #1 will be more about “the product” and #2 will be more about “the experience”. And, what is really amazing about this, is that no amount of bricks and mortar or investment can impact “the experience” more than the people in the business. I am not saying there isn’t a cost, because it takes training and commitment to consistently deliver a high level experience, but for the most part it is free, it won’t require a large bank loan to attain. All businesses, including yours, have an equal opportunity to deliver a great experience – but it has to be a clear focus and priority if you want to pull it off.

So get out and enjoy some great food this week! You are helping the economy and you are helping fund a worthwhile local charity.  And while you are doing so, ask those two questions. Then take the answers and the inspiration back to your business and put them to work.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this – feel free to share any great dining experiences you had this week and why they resonated with you.  Leave us a comment below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

Photo by Scott Smith