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January's Featured Speaker: Joel Cohen,

Joel Cohen was a featured speaker at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show in September 2014.

Defining Your Restaurant's Customer Experience

Trending high is the need for a better education in mapping the customer experience - and walking in their shoes to understand what the experience is like - and how to take that experience up a notch.

First know that without a positive experience, the default for your customers is a negative or a non-remembered experience, where your restaurant is a one-time only visit. The good news is this world of mediocrity and similarity makes its easy for any restaurant to stand-out and make a positive impression on your customer - and it's the smallest things that create the most lasting results. John, Paul, Ringo and George had the answer to this: "All You Need Is Love."

It's easy to give a rose to a new or frequent guest; easy to give a customer a $1 lottery ticket for a chance to win a million; easy to write a thank-you note, and easy to use your business card to break the ice with a customer to start a conversation, much like what is still done everyday in the business world. The point? Creating an emotionally connected customer experience is easy no matter what your concept is - and that includes take-out and delivery.

But just what is this thing called "experience?"

The word "experience" (like the word "marketing") is one of those intangible words that are thrown around a lot, which can mean many things. The reality is that it's used so often that few truly understand what it really does mean - some use it just to sound intelligent. Experience is the "take-away impression" that a customer has - and be aware that whether you like it or not, the customer will always have an experience – positive or negative.

Experience is many different things to many different people and they occur at many different times and at various locations in or even outside your restaurant.

As a result, it's a must-do to walk in your customers' shoes and be aware of every possible impression or customer touchpoint and manage that experience so it's positive.

Here's the golden nugget you need to know: The tangible attributes of your product – whatever you serve – are far less influential on the customers' total experience than the intangible unconscious sensory and emotional elements that came from dining with you.

Next Steps: I challenge you to be your own customer. Start with the parking lot and ask "what if?" Then move on to every area (washrooms too) of your restaurant. And don't forget the customer's last impression - more often, it's the one that's remembered the first and the most.

More about Joel Cohen: 

Different thinking. Innovative. No-Nonsense. Honest results that work. Those are the words people use to describe Joel Cohen - the Wizard of Wow - that have made him one of the country’s most respected restaurant and hospitality thought-leaders. Not afraid to challenge the lack of differentiation of restaurants or admonish the hype and eagerness to jump onto the next magic bandwagon that promises instant sales, Cohen provides a stimulating mix of refreshing realism and cutting edge innovation that delivers sales. In addition to being a nationally recognized speaker, Cohen is often tapped by news organizations such Bloomberg News and Fox News for his marketing insight. You can visit his website at or his blog at


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