When the father of the two year old girl tightly clutched in his arms began screaming obscenities at Kranston because the bathroom in my San Francisco restaurant had been deemed non-operational due to a the previous diaper flushing parent exiting moments earlier, I knew my customer base had gone array. But how did it get that way? I never targeted my marketing or advertising to people of little patience who disrespected servers, bartenders, and family.
Reviewing the months before, I realized that I didn´t like the majority of my customer base. They really belonged at the hot dog bar at 7-11 instead of my leather banquet appointed dining room.
But, it was too late, they were mine- and there was little I could do to attract a better clientele with a higher taste level without closing and revamping the entire space. It was a very tough situation to be in. It was also a great lesson to learn.
Launching a new menu or introducing your first menu to the public is more of a science than people realize. Once the announcement of what is being prepared in the kitchen is public domain, the lines are set and the client base defined. And as the owner, it is your job to decide where you want to be in the restaurant business. Casual? Fine Dining? Quick quality? Fast food? White tablecloth? Plastic cover? Picnic table?
These are all decisions that you need to make long before you open the doors to your new empire. In fact, hey should really be made before you even venture out to find a location.
Frequently owners open restaurants in areas that are completely contrary to their concept. They either under-estimate the needs of the neighborhood and the desires of their potential customers, or, they over shoot the market, placing high priced entrees, appetizers and desserts on a menu in a neighborhood where the line at MacDonald´s is continually out the door.
One of the sure ways to avoid financial disaster is to obtain a balance between product, price and people.
When developing your menu, dreaming of your concept, and describing your mission statement and goals,do it with your customer base in mind. Don´t hesitate to go to a neighborhood, or stand in front of the location you are considering and ask passers-by their opinion on your menu and concept. Will they give you honest answers? Most will. And the information you gather is more important than you will ever imagine.
It´s the dining public that will be paying your bills, ask them what they want. Give them some ideas, and don´t take everything they say to heart, but you should learn to listen"?¦it´s easier before you open than it is once the food is fired.
As far as the father and toddler- he was "86´d", but not before his daughter went to the bathroom.