Eating out, whether casual or fine dining, is all about the experience. And hospitality businesses are chasing the holy grail of creating one that’s just right for their target market—whether that’s someone looking for a coffee or an eight-course tasting menu.
So, should good food and drink be the main focus when planning your business? While there’s no denying it’s critical to success, this is actually only one part of the restaurant experience. If a good meal was all someone wanted they would order a takeaway. Eating out is an important social experience the world over, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for venues to stand out in such a saturated market. And as time and money become scarcer, consumers are looking for something special when they eat out. By 'special' I don’t necessarily mean expensive, it’s the little things that make somewhere worth visiting. This could be vintage-style decor, or choosing their perfect milkshake combination. It doesn’t matter what your special thing is, just that your customers appreciate it.
Often the difference between a good experience and an amazing one is when it’s seamless—at a restaurant that has a strong identity, embedded in every detail. It’s easy to spot and, at Faber, we've named the phenomenon ‘immersive hospitality’. This perfect storm occurs when a restaurant has created a unique world where all of the customer touchpoints and how they work together are carefully considered and smoothly executed. We refer to the process of planning to achieve this as ‘experience mapping’.
Hospitality is notoriously tough, there are so many plates to spin that it’s very easy to drop one. Therefore the experience mapping process isn’t a contrived box-ticking exercise, it’s undertaking the planning required to create a successful restaurant. And it’s much easier and more effective when you break it down into the steps we’ve defined in our free experience mapping pocket guide (coming soon!). These things might be obvious, but often details get forgotten during the planning process and let a venue down. A classic example is lighting: when the balance isn’t right it can detract from the finest food, service, and decor. And did you know that tableware influences not only how people see your food, but how they taste it?
The experience mapping process…
Step One: discovery
Our mapping process initially involves defining what your experience is all about—your inspiration, back story, and culture. Then we consider who you are inviting to join you for this experience or ‘journey’: your target customer.
Step Two: destinations and route planning
Once these things have been established it’s time to think about the highlights of your experience. Maybe one of these is a connoisseur coffee which, when using our journey analogy, we would call a 'destination’. Destinations are always reached via various transition points, pit stops, or turns in the road. So it’s important to consider the ways a customer could go to reach each destination and the things along those paths. This could include the greeting process, taking a toilet break, waiting at a table to be served, or maybe watching the barista make drinks.
Step Three: narrating or ‘layering’
Communicating each venue’s unique story and culture lies at the heart of our approach. And the next stage of our mapping process is where it gets creative. This is what we call narrating or ‘layering’. It refers to the visuals, such as lighting, furniture, decor, staff uniforms, tableware, and branding. And also includes sound-related factors like acoustics and music—all of which help to tell your story and are layered to create the right vibe on your customer’s journey. Your vision is unique and Faber is here to help you bring it to life through design.
Step Four: implementation
The final stage of our experience mapping process is ‘implementation’. This part of planning should involve your whole team, as these are the people who are going to be chauffering your customer on their journey. Remember, the point of mapping is to plan every customer touchpoint as part of the whole experience. Nothing should be considered in isolation and teamwork is essential for seamless execution.
So what next?
Now we've covered what experience mapping is and why it’s essential, keep an eye out for our free pocket guide How to Craft Your Experience. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get your copy first!