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Thursday, 10 January 2013

5 Marketing and Service Lessons from your local Asian Restaurant

It was hot yesterday and my wife Helen decided she wanted to go to the pictures. She pulled me kicking and screaming away from the office. She just wanted to get cool. So off we go to Burwood; join a queue of about 50 people (this is not my idea of fun). “Les Miserables” is not starting till 7.30pm and it is now about 6pm. Food time.

Out we go into the heat. It is 40C plus.  When you have been in the air con it feels like hitting a furnace. We walk into almost the first restaurant. It is Asian; about 80 seats; no fancy fittings; just simple tables and chairs and hand written signs everywhere. Everything is in Chinese. We are the only Europeans in the place. It is "chockers"; full of people eating their dinner.

Within seconds a table miraculously appears . Next we are handed the English version of the menu and a handwritten specials menu. There is a simple photo book with pictures of each dish (and there are a lot) with a handwritten description and price. There are some lessons here.

The staff are running; the owner a good looking Asian lady is out on the floor directing traffic, moving tables. She is cool and calm and very much in control. I watch as she juggles tables and squeezes more and more people into the restaurant. People are queuing now to get in. I am waiting to be asked if I could let someone sit on my shoulders, it's that busy. This is Tuesday night and most of the European restaurants are empty.

We immediately get a large pot of Chinese tea… complimentary and when we are ready our order is taken. There was no rush and the waitress was helpful despite the organised chaos around us.  The meal comes in about 15/20 minutes.  It is superb.  We look at the dishes around us and know we must come back with friends for more. This place is good.

I come to pay the bill and I literally have to fight my way to the counter; do a waltz with a couple of waiters as things are so tight and the bill is waiting for me. No last minute adding up; they were prepared all ready to go. I pay the bill. Wow, that is refreshing.

The lessons…

Now, I am the first to acknowledge this is not your standard European restaurant; the cultures are different; there is no ambience but the lessons are everywhere…

Four walls marketing – everywhere there is handwritten notices telling the customers about the specials and the dishes … most restaurants simply do not have good signage, do not use their walls inside and out to effectively communicate their offerings. Think about what you can do
Photographs of your dishes – pictures tell a thousand words and having available a photo book of dishes could well boost sales
English menus – French and Italian restaurants often make the mistake of thinking their customers understand what their dishes are when the menu is written in their native language. If your customers don’t understand what they are buying, they buy less. There are more than 160 different cultures living in Australia and we tend to forget that English is often a second language.  In this part of the world many customers may never have had any exposure to European languages and so will struggle with your menu. Be aware of this and cater for it. By catering for different languages and you may well open up a whole different market of customers
Conduct the orchestra - manage your people, customer flows and experience. Have someone to actively manage the process so customers are immediately met and seated; that customers are not left waiting for attention; drinks are poured and orders are taken; tables are cleared promptly; empty tables are not left vacant. Pro-actively manage the game. This means less doing and more managing of the process
Bill ready - watch for the signs when the customer is finished and pro-actively have the account ready for payment. Don’t start adding up the bill when the customer is ready to pay.  This causes delays. Also when you have a rush of customers wanting to settle their accounts at the same time this can make any delays even worse.  Instead pro-actively manage the process and have your bills ready. Your customers will appreciate this and be impressed with your efficiency.

Alistair Gray
Doctor Profit


  1. Great article - so many lessons from these 'under the radar' places - their turnover would make many Aussie places green with envy!

  2. Thanks Ken. Promise to catch up shortly. Cheers Alistair

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