It’s the Small Things: Restaurant Micro-Experiences

The use of micro experiences is what makes a restaurant experience so unique, and it’s these experiences that create a more memorable dining experience for your guests, and fully activate your restaurant brand.

A guest will always keep in mind the quality of your customer service and the taste of your food, but it’s in the small and subtle details that the true essence and soul of your restaurant experience is put on display.

Imagine, for instance, walking into a new restaurant. You see and hear familiar sights and sounds; the melody of your songs and the aroma of your favorite food. You look up and are greeted with a warm smile by your server.

These moments are short and may not seem important, but these tiny moments will add up to create a lasting impression of the restaurant in your guest’s mind. The customer may not associate the positive thoughts about the restaurant back to that specific moment, yet still, it created a memorable restaurant experience.

Top 8 Ideas for In Restaurant Micro Experiences

There are a number of ways for a restaurant to use micro experiences to improve their guest’s experience. In fact, there are even marketing agencies who specialize in helping you create these “micro-experiences.” Here are my top eight suggestions for creating positive micro experiences for your restaurant’s guests. If you utilize these eight ideas, you are sure to obtain guest loyalty, helping you create a reliable source of business from repeat customers.

Not only that, but happy customers will share their experience with others, attracting even more new customers. Even if your business is already doing well, these eight tips can still help you create an even better experience for your customers.

1. Engaging Your Staff

Micro experiences can be implemented in almost every area of your restaurant, but one of the simplest ways to create a more memorable micro experience is by training your employees.

Now, I don’t mean that you simply teach them to do their job duties. You are likely already doing that. What I mean is that you should train your employees on how to create great impressions through micro experiences.

To do this you will need to explain the concept of micro experiences to them and provide them with real-life examples of how they can use the concept on the job. That way each of your staff members can create micro experiences that will induce guest loyalty.

You could put a reward system or program in place to encourage your staff to work on improving their communication with the guests. Or, reward employees for providing exceptional customer service and extending kindness towards customers.

Be sure that you help them see how a better guest experience can translate into their paycheck also. After all, happier and more loyal guests often will translate into higher check averages.

Another benefit of this would be keeping your employees happy and engaged. Employees who are engaged tend to care more about their job and work harder at it. After all, it’s really difficult to ask un-engaged and unhappy employees to create positive micro experiences.

2. Your Atmosphere & Service

Your restaurant should certainly have a good vibe and soul. A personal style goes a long way when it comes to creating a memorable dining experience for your guests. It’s just another subtle thing that will contribute to your guest’s overall impression.

Having a personalized style may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a huge impact. This alone could be the thing that sets your restaurant apart from the hundreds of others. A unique interior and aesthetic can make a customer excited to return. If you’re dining experience has evoked certain feelings that they don’t get anywhere else, then they’ll always return to you to feel that way again.

Maybe it’s the personalized style of decoration or a personal theme that provokes feelings of excitement, joy, and interest in your guests. Or it could be the way that your guests are greeted, and served that makes them feel at home. But remember, there’s a difference between providing great service and providing great hospitality. Hospitality is everything when it comes to building a memorable restaurant experience.

Danny Meyer put it well when he said,

“Service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”

Danny Meyer, Setting the Table

The guest’s surrounding and overall vibe of your restaurant can greatly impact the way the guest feels regarding your establishment. This can help your establishment to stand apart from the rest.

3. One-Of-A-Kind Menu Options

Of course, your food will leave an impression on your guests, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the restaurant’s ‘signatures.’

I’m sure you can think of a restaurant that features one item that you can’t find anywhere else. McDonald’s “Big Mac,” Burger King’s “Whopper,” Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, or Taco Bell’s “Dorito” tacos are just a few examples.

People tend to know what they want before selecting where they will eat dinner.

By offering one of a kind menu options along with guest favorites, you will encourage customers to select your restaurant.

Once you create that one delicious item that only your restaurant can provide to guests, you will inspire your guest’s loyalty. They will flock to your restaurant to get that one of a kind item. These signature items are what makes your restaurant your own.

Your guest trying that one of a kind menu option is a micro experience in its own way. They will remember that signature item, how it made them feel, and associate it with your restaurant. So, you better make sure it’s good!

4. Beverage Programs & House Speciality Drinks

If your restaurant serves alcohol this is the perfect way to create memorable micro experiences. Serve house drinks or feature specialty drinks. Provide affordable alcoholic beverages. You could even host a happy hour.

People love to drink and have a good time. If you can do two things for them, those guests will be loyal to your restaurant for life. First, create a fun, laid back environment. Second, serve premium, great-tasting, and affordable alcohol.

It’s easier to create positive micro experiences when the guest has had a drink. They can be more relaxed, open, and open to dialogue. It will create a lasting impression of your restaurant.

People generally love alcohol, so if you can serve the guest’s favorite alcohol at an affordable price, you will attract a ton of business. If you can create a positive dining experience through the use of micro experiences, you will keep those guests coming back for more fun.

5. Unique & Comfortable Furniture

The furniture should fit your restaurant’s style but should also stand out and make a statement. It needs to to be comfortable, visually appealing, and different. Furnish your establishment with pieces the guest will remember fondly.

Your guest probably won’t dwell on the appearance of the furniture; they will just briefly consider it. However, in most instances, micro experiences can occur in just a short amount of time. On the same token, if your furniture is uncomfortable, odd-looking, or predictable and mediocre, the micro experience your guest will have will be a negative one.

In the brief moments that your furniture grasps the customer’s attention, the guest should feel positive about the appearance and comfort of the piece of furniture.

That positive thought will work alongside the alcohol, food, and atmosphere to create the guest’s overall full impression of your restaurant. Remember, the overall guest experience is just a collection of micro experiences that lead the guest to feel a certain type of way.

6. Quirky Fixtures & Decor

You’re probably wondering what I mean by quirky accessories. I’m referring to every non-furniture item in your restaurant. Decorations, wall decor, table pieces, etc. All of these FF&E elements throughout your restaurant will make an impact.

These small pieces can invoke certain feelings or be conversation starters. The restaurant fixtures and decor will contribute to the unique furniture and atmosphere. They should seamlessly blend in but stand out, or feel out of place.

To create a great micro experience with these quirky fixtures and decor you need the guest to first notice the piece. Then note that it is intriguing, cute, or different. The piece should ideally make the guest laugh, smile, ponder, or point it out to their dining companion.

These quirky accessories should be unique to your establishment. This is another micro experience idea that can set your establishment apart from the rest. The most successful restaurants utilize this idea; sometimes it comes naturally, but other times it takes some thinking to get it right.

7. Utilize Atmosphere & Ambiance

Before you can use an atmosphere to maintain positive micro experiences, you must create the atmosphere. You can customize your restaurant’s atmosphere with ambiance, sounds, scents, and textures. The atmosphere has to be felt by the guest.

You can do this by selecting a certain type of music that works with the restaurant theme. The ambiance, or lighting, plays a key role in creating an atmosphere.

Even the scent of your restaurant is important. In fact, there are companies that solely focus on “scent-marketing” such as Scent Air. This is a very interesting way to create an experience because studies have shown that 80%+ of customers are willing to spend more time in a place with a pleasant scent. Also, emotions are generated, in large part (75%), by specific scents we recall.

An enjoyable atmosphere will create an initial impression, but it will also contribute to the effect of each one of the guest’s micro experiences throughout their stay.

The atmosphere will affect everything, including your guest’s impressions of other people. Your atmosphere plays a big part in showing off the heart and soul of your establishment.

Ultimately the atmosphere of your restaurant will color the restaurant experience in a certain shade.

8. Keep it Clean!

Your goal is to create a positive dining experience, which involves a guest enjoying food. Because of this, your restaurant has to be clean.

Most people don’t really notice when a space is clean, however, they always notice when it is dirty.

That said, this idea is more about preventing negative micro experiences than creating a positive one. When serving food, cleanliness is the gold standard.

Think of this scenario, your guest has just received their food and they complement the server on its speedy delivery. Their mouth is watering as they inhale the delicious aromas. The guest and server exchange a smile.

So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, not, because the guest just picked up their fork and there was a hair sticking to it. The guest will now have to wait for a new fork and eat their meal with the memory of the dirty fork lingering on their mind.

That dirty fork just ruined an otherwise ideal micro experience. Had that fork been clean this guest would have had perfect restaurant experience.

3 Restaurants That Utilize Micro Experiences Well

The most successful restaurants utilize micro experiences in creating positive guest experiences. Theses restaurants who do this are able to stay relevant, popular, profitable and most importantly, in business.

Below are a few restaurants that utilize micro experiences well. Let me walk you through a guest’s experience at each establishment. Then you should review how they create great dining experiences through micro experiences.

Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

Cracker Barrel is a home-style restaurant that prioritizes the guest’s experience. The restaurant chain’s motto is ‘Pleasing People.’ The chain does such a great job at this, that they have one of the largest percentages of return customers.

The restaurant pleases people by focusing on micro experiences. A guest walks in the front doors, entering the restaurant’s country store. The store features countless unique items, most of which are created solely for the restaurant.

An employee greets you at the door with a huge smile and inquires how you’re doing. You follow the sign pointing to the hostess station. At which point the host reviews the daily special and featured items.

As you are led to your seat, you notice the old fashion signs decorating the walls and lit lanterns at every table. You sit down on a wooden table, which features a homemade peg game.

The menu consists of country style favorites that are meant to remind you of sit-down meals, enjoyed with family. There are a few select meals like Grampa’s Breakfast and Uncle Herschel’s Favorite.

The restaurant has a personalized style that follows a central theme, and they extend their style into their decor and accessories. Cracker Barrel offers one of a kind menu option. They create an atmosphere with their friendly customer service and cozy table-top lanterns.

Roosters

Rooster’s claims to be, ‘A fun, causal joint.’ The restaurant features chicken wings but offers a variety of other American Foods. This restaurant is what it claims, pretty casual.

Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by a cashier, who will lead you to your seats. You’ll likely notice the high ceilings and light wooden furniture. The huge party table will stand out and the televisions will roar with the latest in sports.

You will definitely admire the sports memorabilia that covers the walls, but it will be the hilarious sayings displayed in black print on the square, white signs that capture your attention.

As you survey the menu, you’ll love the large selection of wing sauces, and intriguing list of appetizers. There is also a robust alcohol menu, that always includes bargain-priced featured drinks.

When you order, you’ll have to order the dumpster fries, or tots, as an appetizer. They are truly mouthwatering and come with a signature sauce.

Even the servers are casual in jeans, or jean shorts, and a blacktop. The bench tables are long enough to accompany a family or group of friends.

The restaurant uses micro experiences perfectly. They have a personalized style that contributes to the atmosphere of the restaurant. The funny signs are a great example of quirky fixtures and decor. The dumpster fries are one-of-a-kind menu option that you’ll have to try. Plus, bargain drinks are a great way to inspire guest loyalty.

The Cheesecake Factory

The finest of all the dining establishments on the list is The Cheesecake Factory. From the moment you approach the building, you will notice the attention to detail. The building itself has the shape of a factory.

In the winter this restaurant features fire heaters on the patio for waiting guests. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by a romantic style ambiance. There is both a bar and bakery located near the hostess station.

The host takes your name and seats you at the first available table. As you walk to your table you are navigated through an array of fancy tables with coat racks. When you take a seat, you can’t help but notice how comfortable and intimate your table is.

You can order a drink from an extensive beverage menu, which includes alcohol. Then you have a huge variety of meals to choose from. You can’t beat their signature chicken marsala.

The meal will be incredible and the service delightful, but the most impressive part of the evening will be the dessert. They don’t call it “The Cheesecake Factory” for nothing! You can select a huge slice of cheesecake from almost fifty options!

The server will box up any remaining food for you to take home with you. These restaurants are almost always located near shopping centers.

The Cheesecake Factory creates a memorable dining experience by creating micro experiences. They include the personal touch of the warmer, which extends caring thoughts towards their guests. The restaurant features exquisite furniture, one of a kind menu option. Come on, fifty types of cheesecake? Plus, the restaurant features a personalized style and atmosphere.

Conclusion

As you read through the list of ideas and restaurants that utilize the ideas perfectly to created incredible micro experiences that lead the guest to have a memorable dining experience, do you notice anything?

Each of these items has to do with the way the guest feels. That is the key to creating great micro experiences.

You have to make the guest feel something positive and the stronger that positive feeling is the better.

When a guest associates positive feelings with your restaurant, you are successfully creating memorable micro experiences. This is how you obtain guest loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Do you notice how these three restaurants create micro experiences? Every aspect of their establishment is geared towards their potential guests. These establishments have put a large amount of thought into what will grab their customer’s attention and invoke certain feelings.

If you want to improve your guest’s dining experiences, you will need to create great micro experiences too. The guests will create them with or without your help. You will need to gear their attention towards things that will reflect your establishment in a positive light.

Restaurant micro experiences create a memorable dining experience for your guests. You need to make sure their micro experiences are positive and fulfill the guest’s expectations for your establishment.

Jeremy Wells

Chief Marketing Officer, Longitude°

Jeremy is an author, speaker, and partner at Longitude°, with well over a decade of experience and expertise in brand strategy, business development, customer behavior insights, and marketing. His career has centered around helping leaders build influential brands by telling more compelling stories in order to connect on a deeper level with their audience.