Seeing Your Restaurant through the Eyes of Your Guests

Busy, busy, busy. Running a restaurant can be overwhelming. For an owner or manager, there is a lot to do all day, every day. Some days you’re in before dawn and leave after dusk. Week after week, month after month, year after year the only constant is change. Changes happen in the staff, in the restaurant, in the menu, in the neighborhood, and in the competition. Over time, small changes become big changes. In restaurants, just as in life, you poke your head up and everything looks different than it used to.

When things change little by little, sometimes we don’t notice. If we’re too busy managing the chaos, it’s easy to miss the opportunity to navigate the change. Have you ever planned an evening with friends at your home and then realized that you needed to do a major cleaning to get it ready for guests? When we’re in it every day, we tend not to notice the piles of stuff that have accumulated.

The same is true in our restaurants. Many restaurant owners start the day by coming in the back door, work hard all day, and end the day by leaving from the back door. So I challenge you to do this—see your restaurant though the eyes of your guest. Walk in the front door. Take the opportunity to leave your restaurant during your peak time, drive around the block, and truly experience your restaurant as a guest.

Park, walk in the front door, and go through the entire experience a guest goes though. Look at the outside of your restaurant. What do you notice? Look at the entry, notice the lighting, observe the cleanliness, and smell the smells. What are your guests seeing and experiencing? Notice how it feels when the staff greets you (okay, this may be a challenge since they know you). Notice the floors, the ceiling, the tables and chairs. Look at your menu and experience your ordering and paying process. Walk to the bathrooms, come back to your table, and pay attention to everything around you. Take notes about everything that comes to you, good and bad.

Next, go through the same process for your closest competitors. Yep, go experience their restaurant as if you’re one of their guests. Where are they delivering a better experience than you and where are you beating them? If you were a customer, where would you choose to eat, and why?

Now that you’ve done it, pick a day for each of your staff members to go through the same experience. Have them walk through the front door as a guest and then compare notes. Did they come to the same conclusions as you, or did they notice things in a different way?

Now, strategize with your team on ways that you can improve your restaurant experience. What are some small and easy things you can change today to improve your restaurant? What are some longer-term ideas you can implement? The most successful restaurants are always finding new ways to listen to their guests, improve their experience, and navigate toward success.


  1. Food/Menu
  2. Environment
  3. Service
  4. Experience
  5. Prices/Value
  6. Location/Parking