There’s an old cliché which says that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and, like many clichés, it has become to widely use because it contains a high proportion of truth. The hospitality industry is all about making people feel welcome, valued and looked after, as well as providing them with an experience which they’ll remember fondly, and the simple truth is that if you get a few small details wrong at the start of this process, it’s extremely hard to set about turning things around.
The exterior of your business – whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, bar or cafe – is of vital importance. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent a huge amount of money refurbishing your reception area, for example, if the paint on your hotel sign is peeling, the plants on the front lawn are dying and the handle on the door comes off in the customers’ hand. This will implant in their minds the idea that your offer is second rate, and an idea like that, once implanted, is very difficult to shift. One of the reasons for this is that the idea itself will then go on to colour your customers attitudes towards everything else, making it that much harder to impress. Stand in front of your business and ask yourself honestly – if you were passing by, would you be tempted to step inside. If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, then you’re losing the chance to show people just what you have got to offer.
Having enticed customers into your establishment, it’s vital that the welcome you offer is warm and genuine seeming. People arriving at a hotel after a long journey will be tired, aching, probably hot and sweaty and desperate to settle down in the comfort of their room. Desk staff who seem to realise all of this will create the ideal first impression, letting the guests know that they are in good hands and will be looked after. Often, people will comment that honest mistakes – a room not quite being ready, for example – can be easier to forgive than a bad attitude, and that if the member of staff seems to appreciate how they’re being inconvenienced and does their best to minimise this, then they’ll give the establishment a second chance.
Often, it’s the little touches which can make or break an experience in the hospitality industry. If you run a restaurant, for example, you may pride yourself on serving delicious food from a spotlessly clean kitchen, but if you’ve allowed the curtains in the window of the restaurant to become old, worn and dirty, then people eating their will assume that the same standards apply elsewhere, a though which will most definitely not be conducive to a hearty appetite. Similarly, if guests are kept waiting too long before being seated, particularly if staff are so busy elsewhere that they seem to be more or less ignored, then this can be the part of the dining out experience which they take away with them. First impressions count because they are fundamentally about how much you value your customers as discerning people in their own right who deserve nothing but the best, in all areas.