studies reveal the secret to F&B success… and it’s not what you think

June 30, 2015

by marie murray

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we’ve heard it since we were little. make a good impression. be polite. don’t talk with your mouth full. say please and thank you. don’t pick your nose. and on and on and on. as kids, these rules just seemed annoying, but somehow we knew that our parents were trying to tell us something important. what were they getting at anyway? they were teaching us about image: the face we present to the public.

in the F&B industry, image is a lot more important than we might think. that may be common knowledge to industry experts. but not all of the contributing factors that make up ‘image’ are created equal. one contributing factor really makes the biggest impact. we’ll get to all those factors and highlight the most important one, but first, let’s take a look at why image is so important.

one study1 shows that in public spaces, image is often the primary factor that determines whether or not people will return to a public space and whether they’ll recommend it to others. it matters. this is especially true for franchises that fall between fast food chains and full service restaurants, which are rapidly becoming most popular in the food industry.2

so, what exactly is image?

it’s what sets a public space apart from competitors. it’s all the things that make a brand stand out. it’s more than the immediate experience guests have while they’re actually in the public space. image is what sticks in the patrons’ minds long after they’ve left, and what keeps them coming back for more… or never returning.

technically speaking, image is the combination of branding, décor and interior design, furniture, store location, waiting time for a meal, food quality, menu variety, professional appearance of staff, price, and cleanliness3. but really, image is the specific harmony of all those factors working together.

today, the options and possibilities can seem endless. guests can choose from an almost unlimited number of public spaces, and the variety of choices are staggering. they can base their decision off of menu preference, ambiance, service, price range, or location. so why not focus on just one aspect and gain popularity by excelling in that area?

well the fascinating discovery we’re sharing with you is that the whole is far more significant than the sum of its parts. in other words, the individual aspects of a good restaurant or public space (service, location, menu, wait time) are not nearly as important as the overall experience. yes, all those aspects are included, but they’re exponentially more valuable when they merge to create one unique image.

two zones in the same restaurant create different atmospheres.

so what’s the most important contributing factor? surprisingly, it’s usually not the quality or variety of the menu that matters most. that’s because there are more and more places that serve similar menus4. image is actually best determined by the décor and interior design5. creating zones that offer slightly different atmospheres also makes a difference. and furniture is often the differentiating factor between different zones. the most impactful first impression is the atmosphere. that’s also what stays the most with guests after they leave. if guests can choose from a wide variety of places, they are most likely to return to the place with the best atmosphere.

furniture is often the differentiating factor between different zones.

the next time you think of image as an annoying set of rules that your parents used to make you behave in public, think again. image may actually be the primary thing that determines the success of your restaurant or public space.

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references:
  1. Ryu, K., Han, H., Kim, T. The relationships among overall quick-casual restaurant image, perceived value, customer satisfaction, and behavioral intentions. International Journal of Hospitality Management 27 (2008) 459-469.
  2. Anderson, J., 2003. Quick-casual flavors. Retrieved January 2, 2007, from
    http://www.flavor-online.com/2003/pdfs/anderson.pdf
  3. Anderson, J., 2003. Quick-casual flavors. Retrieved January 2, 2007, from
    http://www.flavor-online.com/2003/pdfs/anderson.pdf
  4. Tillotson, J.E., 2003. Fast-casual dining our next eating passion? (Business and Nutrition). Nutrition Today 38 (3), 91–95.
  5. Sloan, E.A., 2002. Fast and casual: today’s foodservice trends. Food Technology 56 (9), 34–51.

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