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I’m not talking about going to Mcdonald’s or Burger King or your local Chinese food carry out joint. I’m talking about fine dining and the “experience” associated with going out to dinner.

Picture yourself as a gourmet chef in one of your finer restaurants. For the most part, if you know your clientele, you can break down their dining experience into five distinct phases. Let’s take a look at each one…

Anticipation

That’s right. For the most part your customers are actually looking forward to going out to eat. They want to be pampered. They look forward to being wined and dined. This stage usually begins the moment the reservations are made. Depending on the popularity of your establishment, this stage can last anywhere from a week or so to a month. This stage is also pretty important since the longer one waits, the more one expects a certain level of satisfaction. I know that if I was looking forward to something for a month or so and it wound up being disappointed, the time would have felt wasted.

Trepidation

Ok, your customers have arrived. What questions do you think they’re asking themselves? How about things like “What am I going to order?” or “Am I dressed ok?” for instance. Or your décor might remind them of similar experiences, good or bad, that they might have encountered in other restaurants. A whole bunch of thoughts cross their minds as they make their way to your place and await being seated..

Inspection

It might not seem like it but everything is falling under the watchful eye of your customer. Things such as wine lists, menu’s, art work, waiters and waitresses, bartenders, utensils, fine china, glasses, napkins, plant life, and rest rooms to name a few things all are being catalogued and rated in the eyes of your customer. All of these as well as countless other factors such as noise level, music selection, etc, all contribute to the way your customer is going to rate their dining experience.

Fulfillment/Ecstasy/Animal Satisfaction

This stage usually occurs after your customer has ordered and is about ¾ of the way through the meal. By then, your server should be asking them how they are doing and if they need anything else. Its at this time when your client has already made a determination of the quality of the food, the way it was prepared and the degree of service. If the server hears superlatives, you can pretty much guarantee that the evening has been a success. If you here things such as “Okay” or “Fine” you might be in trouble. Nobody wants to shell out top dollar for something that is just “Fine .“

Evaluation

The dessert has been served, after dinner drinks have been consumed and the coffee is poured. Its at this point when your party usually asks for the tab. If it’s a couple, the inevitable “How much was it?” usually follows. You can usually judge by the customers demeanor. If they leave with a smile are not in a rush to get out of the door, you can pretty much guarantee that you and your staff have done their job.

Its important to note that the evaluation phase can go on indefinitely as word of mouth spreads from customer to potential customer and so on about your establishments reputation (or lack thereof).

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