A gloves-off conversation between restaurants operators and guests

A gloves-off conversation between restaurants operators and guests

Business consultant Keary Shandler answers the tough question of whether there is a disconnection between diners and restaurant owners, guests, and hotel operators. And tells us how the answer depends on your side of the fence.

Occupancy reports, revenue figures, and end-of-year results for 2022 are strong indicators of how prosperous the F&B sector is; thus operators need to capitalize on that especially since plenty of investors are interested to invest in the sector.

Nowadays, operators are trying to meet the high demand in dining and travel whilst betting on getting online recognition for doing so. We live in a time where more content is being generated by users rather than brands so keeping a close tab on what the audience is saying and doing, is becoming as important as ever to leverage.

What’s working for the guest

Brand expansion is moving at light speed. The opportunity to dine in a new establishment every night of the week and not have to revisit the same venue in the period of a year is more than feasible in a city like Dubai. The steady stream of restaurant and hotel opening announcements is currently breaking all records from both international and home-grown brands.  Already spoilt for choice, market growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon however, we know from experience how quickly things can change.

With a wide choice of offerings and concepts to choose from, prices become an important factor, which leads to fierce competition amongst restaurants and a ‘race to the bottom’ to achieve break-even volume. This is great for both clients and operators, as it is a good way to create brand awareness however in the long run this is not sustainable growth.

This is where most restaurants and hotels fall short – choosing shortcuts and quick fixes versus investing time and energy into people.  The very nature of the hospitality industry relies heavily on the customer experience.  Authentic means instinctive vs. scripted, empowered vs. no authority, deep product confidence vs. surface product training, and collectively, authenticity in customer service leads to repeat business.  Customers may not always remember what they ate but they will remember how they felt when someone went out of their way to ensure their satisfaction.

What’s working for restaurants operators

Restaurants in cities like London, Sydney and New York restaurants are still able to set their own terms to diners for example: demanding that they vacate tables within two hours. If the enjoyment of dining out, relaxing and socialising again is based on turning over tables as much as possible, then it can only be up to the diner to accept or refuse these conditions.  So far customers are still willing to oblige but the question remains: until when?

In fairness, operators face multiple challenges in terms of supply chains, recruiting talent, and inflationary costs.  Some of these issues are beyond their control however, this is more reason to consider a creative approach to a recurrent problem.

Whether the symbiotic relationship between guests and hospitality operators is fully appreciated or not, there has been a shift in thinking since COVID.  Building industry resilience is a smart way to mitigate future shocks and help protect hospitality operators.  For customers, thinking carefully about how they spend their holiday or dining dollar can send strong signals about what’s important for the future.


Keary Shandler
Business consultant


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