A Restaurant That Traded Its Customer Experience for $15

Takeaway: Most times, customer experience comes as a result of common sense. I realized it last week while sitting at a restaurant.

The Story: It’s been a while since I and Suba went on a dinner date. Pregnancy and the kid kept us busy for the last six months. Also, after my daughter was born, we were always too tired to sneak out and get some dinner even if we had the chance. All we had the energy for was a short walk and a cup of tea.

So it is natural for us to get excited when we heard about the new seafood restaurant that opened in the vicinity. We decided to do a proper dinner this time. So, we made careful planning two weeks in advance to squeeze 90 minutes of our time for a quick dinner. We were looking for the right moment and it came in on a Friday evening. We got buy-in from my mom who agreed to watch the kid while we were out.

As we entered the restaurant, a Tamil guy opened the door and said “namaste”. I don’t understand why! (Because ‘namaste’ is a Hindi word and we no way look like people from the North). But that’s not important in this story.\

The restaurant was a fine dining place and it looked the part. Fancy lights, a large seating area, props on the wall fitting the beach vibe, etc. Even the waiters wore bright floral shirts to fit into the theme.

The experience was great right from the beginning. A waitress saw us walking in, opened the door, and walked us to our table. She pulled the chairs for us to sit on and even suggested the best items on the menu. The food came in and it was great. The speakers were playing M.S. Viswanathan hits, which gave the place a different vibe. The classic playlist was effortless to listen to and we were having a good time. Everything was on point until I heard the ad.

I felt like I was snapped back to reality. Everything I was vibing to until then came to a standstill. The playlist was from YouTube and it started playing ads in the middle of the song. I only thought I had in my at that moment was “How much will it cost the restaurant to buy a YouTube premium subscription?

It’s ₹1250 (~$15 USD) for a whole year. I know it because I have a subscription.

That’s the average bill amount in the restaurant for a party of two. Even with all the math, we can certainly say $15 a year is not a huge expense for the restaurant.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to listen to YouTube ads on a fine set of speakers while I’m having dinner at a fancy restaurant. Probably the restaurant management would’ve thought “When we don’t have live music, let’s play songs from YouTube. It’s free anyway!

Companies should realize that even the smallest things matter when it comes to customer experience. I wrote about this a couple of years back, an incident where cutting a chole bhature in half before frying it gave us a memorable customer experience.

I can recall another personal experience from 2014. A bunch of friends visited a barbeque restaurant for lunch on a rainy day and our clothes got wet. The restaurant gave us T-shirts and took our clothes for drying. After our lunch, we got back our clothes neat and dry. The restaurant didn’t have to do that. But, they did, because they want us to feel comfortable right from the beginning. That is the key to a good customer experience.

The size of the brand doesn’t matter when it comes to customer experience. It is the mindset of the people who are running it that matters. The people behind the best brands understand how the little things matter and execute them in order to deliver an exceptional customer experience. I wish more brands understand the importance of customer experience and work towards it.