David Bitton, Managing Director of Bitton Gourmet, reveals that it’s not just the food that keeps the crowds happy. Convenience, friendly service and rock star treatment are all key ingredients too.
Being a chef for 27 years, I can say that consistency in the hospitality industry is very, very hard to achieve. You can have huge highs and lows in the very best of restaurants, so having a loyal base of customers should never be taken for granted.
When we opened Bitton Gourmet 10 years ago, we had a six table café and my wife and I made sure that every customer was greeted like a king or queen. It sounds a little bit over the top but we felt like the industry was lacking this kind of service.
Create an experience
It’s simple to give a huge smile to a customer coming through the door. That's how we started – we wanted to make them feel welcome and cared for. This includes knowing their name, what they do for a living, their children's names etc. It's really important to create an emotional connection with customers.
We offer our customers a great experience and believe that this should always come first. This is where many businesses fail. They might offer the best products in town but they don't give you eye contact, won't look at you, they don't care, they just want your money. That’s no way to build a relationship with a customer. We went the other way and built a connection and through this, we built loyalty. Our foundation for the business is local, loyal people.
Offer different areas for different customers
No one customer is the same and we now have three sections which reflect this notion. The Bitton Private Room is for functions, The Grocer is where you can sit down and do your shopping, and the Kids' Terrace is an outside section that's covered and heated when it's cold.
A local mother may tell her mothers’ group (say 10 or 12 people) about the kids’ area, then those people tell 10 people each (that's 100 people) – the magnification can go on and on until thousands know there’s a children's terrace. Offering something unique to certain groups of people is a huge help when it comes to word of mouth marketing.
Give back to the community
Think of ways to give back to the community. Monday to Friday we invite four different pensioners selected by the city council and give them a free lunch. We also give away 200 cookbooks to local students which helps teach them good cooking habits. There are several reasons why we became involved in working with the local community – it helps spread positive word of mouth about our business, it promotes the ethos of the business and inevitably, it helps our business to grow.
Being at your best all the time is a challenge
One thing to remember is that when you offer the best service all the time, people will expect it all the time. If you raise the bar, then you have to keep it up, because ok service will seem bad in comparison to what’s normal. If you do have an off-day, simply be prepared to face the repercussions. Or, assess which shifts bring out the best in your staff – it may seem like a huge staffing challenge but it will ensure that your customers are only dealt with by the best people.
David Bitton is the Managing Director of Bitton Gourmet; a French-inspired Sydney cafè, bistro, product range and cookbook.
You can connect with David on his website, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.