The Customer a Restaurant and Store Owner Need and Want…a fervent fan!
by Yves Farges (QFG)

What turns a customer into a fervent fan of a restaurant or retail food store? What type of customer does a restaurant and store owner need and want?

Let’s talk about the customer you really want.  Interested in your restaurant or store.  In love with your food products and service.  Talking positively in their circle of friends about your business and products.  And returning regularly.

Basically, a fervent fan.

FERVENT: having or displaying a passionate intensity … impassioned, passionate, fervid, heartfelt, intense, emotionally determined, vehement, ardent, or sincere.

Group of friends enjoying sushi in a Restaurant

Isn’t this how we want all of our customers to feel?  How do we get them there? How do we attract the customer a restaurant or store owner need and want?

Simple … EARN them one ingredient at a time!

The RESTAURANT’S Relationship

For RESTAURANTS the relationship is subtle.

In a restaurant there are so many factors that come into play it is hard to say “ingredients make the difference.”  But time and time again, a happy customer talks about…and most importantly tweets about…that amazingly silky dessert that seemed so much better than anywhere else.  Or that deliciously robust cup of coffee.  Or that perfectly seasoned lamb that was so much better than at any other restaurant.  And certainly better than ever prepared at home.

Dig deep enough and you discover the truth about the customer you need and want.

  • The dessert caught the customer’s eye because the crystallized flower decorating the slice made it unique, and the chocolate used was a single plantation chocolate, without soy lecithin. Captured and convinced!

  • The full bodied coffee was rich and smooth and deep in color.  Not like the bitter coffee usually served in restaurants.  Inspired by a previous Qualifirst blog post the restaurant owner began adding three espressos into every pot of coffee served. Surprised and satisfied!

  • The lamb had a flavour that was better framed and supported because the Chef used a deep aromatic rosemary from the south of France that truly accentuated the skilled Kitchen Brigade. Dazzled and delighted!

Grilled rack of lamb with vegetables

The STORE’S Relationship

For STORES the relationship is a little more direct and obvious but more complex to deliver.

Service and cleanliness are absolutely paramount.  Once the store employees are neatly uniformed and well trained, and the store cleaned to within an inch of a surgical ward, you can tackle what you sell.

The “ingredients” for a store is the food sold.  What the customer takes home.  What the customer consumes.

Impressing customers at a distance is not easy and requires the store owner to make some hard decisions, starting with re-wiring the purchasing brain.

It used to be that cheap was ok. This is no longer the case.

Food manufacturers have adulterated ingredients during production – in their ravenous pursuit of profit – to the point that the product is unacceptable … and in fact borderline comestible.

Jams that used to be fruit-first, healthy, and delicious are now cheaper and tasteless.


Congratulations.  The manufacturer makes more money but the store is stuck with dissatisfied customers hunting for better products in other stores.

Changing the Mindset of the Modern Grocer

To turn a customer into a fervent fan, the store must sell better products.  This requires five major changes to the mindset of the modern grocer.

  1. The store owner must see beyond a product’s hype.

  2. The store owner must make choices oriented towards the customer.

  3. The store owner must make decisions based on quality.

  4. The store owner must be ingredient sensitive because the customer is.

  5. The store owner must face the same reality the customer faces, and see ingredients for what they are.

Customer choosing specialty jam in a gourmet grocery store

Today many so-called quality brands are atrocious due to the irresponsible profit-at-the-expense-of-the-customer business practices of manufacturers.

This is not a call to bulldoze products out of the store but it is a caution to really evaluate the products carried and upgrade them to meet the needs of the customer.

Tea is a perfect example.  Twenty years ago the top brands offered the delicious flavours of Earl Grey, that was heavenly, English Breakfast, that woke you up with a smile, and flowery Darjeeling, that was a joy to sip.

Well, today the top brands can be found everywhere and have become pale ghosts of their past quality, all in pursuit of a better bottom line.  Tea connoisseurs will admit that their tea is not as good as they remember.  They buy it out of habit.

When people taste the organic and sustainable CLIPPER tea the reaction is always the same; wide eyes, the hint of a smile, and a look of nostalgia, because they are reminiscent of what tea used to taste like.

The store owner faces customers determined to buy national brands.  It takes bravery to select a great tea, and eliminate the brand name.

Educating a customer on quality is a challenging job.  When they make the switch, they are half-way to becoming fervent fans.  It takes time because habits are hard to break, but it has to be done.

Stores facing the quality problem solve it with modern tools.

Iffy Olive Oils

Following my advice, a retailer sat down with me one evening to evaluate the ten different bottles of olive oil sold at his store.  In addition to the ten, I brought along two reasonably priced estate olive oils, an expensive estate olive oil, and a mid-priced, innovative smoked olive oil from Spain.

The bet was that if there was no rancid olive oil of the ten stocked at the store, I would buy all ten.

We opened and evaluated all ten plus my four, and to make a long story short, the store owner had to face the reality that some of the big name oils were worse than borderline.

The four Qualifirst olive oils were clearly the best.

The reaction?  He purchased all of the Qualifirst olive oils, immediately discontinued all the iffy olive oils (five of the ten), and committed to buy the reasonably priced, excellent estate olive oil in 5 liters, to pour into bottles under the store name.

This is the ideal.  When inventory change is neutral, overall profit is enhanced by buying in bulk and repackaging, and most importantly, the customer search for quality is better served.

This process makes the store more unique and responsive.  Ultimately making it a destination for the customer, who eventually becomes a fervent fan.

Customers are ingredient-oriented.  The best proof, seeing them read the ingredients of the products they buy.

By satisfying them one product at a time, based on the taste and the quality of the product, the customer will emerge an ardent and fervent fan.

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