Editor's Corner

Here we are, almost time for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. Children are settled back into the school routine, theme parks and water parks are closed, and community-based leisure destinations are ramping up in business.

Several weeks ago, Vicki and I went out to dinner at a new restaurant to celebrate her birthday. The restaurant was recently opened by a chef who had finally decided to do his own thing by opening a restaurant. It had received a number of rave reviews for its food, so we thought it would be a good choice. We went on a week night, so the restaurant was not busy when we arrived - in fact, we were the first customers. As we entered the parking lot, we saw a number of the staff sitting out front of the restaurant, smoking. The restaurant was in a rather run-down strip shopping center, and the restaurant storefront looked more like a bar with a neon beer sign in the window. Not good omens, but we forged ahead, anyway.

The inside looked better than the outside. Nothing fancy. Just one medium-sized dining room with a bar along one wall. However, the music was extremely loud. As we were the only customers, we asked the waitress if she could turn down the music. Her first response was something to the effect that it was hard to control the volume, and if they turned it down too low, they had a problem getting it back on. I persisted in my request, so the waitress finally went back to the kitchen, and a few minutes later the music volume was lowered to a tolerable level.

I won't give you a blow-by-blow description of our experience, other than to say the service was marginal, but the food was perhaps the best we can remember, and at a reasonable price.

As we left the restaurant, Vicki and I turned to each other and basically in unison said, "Great food, but I wouldn't come back."

That leads into a common theme in three of this issue's articles: Four Keys to Great Service, What's More Important, the Entertainment, Food, Service or Ambiance? and the Consumers' Choice Restaurant Awards.

Like our recent experience at the restaurant proves, excelling at only the key attribute of your facility doesn't assure success, ultimately defined as pleased guests who return. The business must excel in multiple aspects, including the service, the quality of the environment (ambiance, atmosphere or what we call quality-of-place) and perceived value.

Unfortunately, many of the family entertainment centers we have seen over the years that ended up as road kill, as well as many we have seen that barely squeak by in paying the bills, are much like the restaurant we visited. Our chef focused on the food and forgot to pay attention to things like service and atmosphere. Too many entertainment venues focus only on the entertainment mix and forget about the service, ambiance and other environmental qualities such as cleanliness. Customers walk out their doors on the first visit, and just as we said the restaurant we visited had great food but we won't be back, they say it was great fun, but they won't be back. Check out the articles in this issue for more insight into what it takes to bring your customers back for more.

I always appreciate feedback from you as our reader. If you have any suggestions, ideas or questions, don't hesitate to contact me. With all my travels, e-mail is the easiest way to reach me via e-mail.

Randy White