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One of the key topics I have spoken about over many years at international industry events (and in my role as the founding Principal of The Cutting Edge Agency) is about the importance of creating F&B concepts with soul. And to understand what that means, we need to start by defining what “soul” means.
Soul is the emotional and intellectual intensity associated with creativity. Soul is, by its own definition, a “feeling,” and as such, this is how we should look at it when we look to our food and beverage operations.
Creating a restaurant with soul requires focus and attention on numerous elements, including the obvious factors like ambiance, menu, and customer experience, as well as the not so obvious connection to local culture, but it ultimately all comes down to how does the venue make people feel.
In writing my book, Create to Plate, I wanted to simplify the roadmap for this into 12 key elements that take people on their hospitality journey, creating cutting-edge concepts with soul. The book itself charts the course from visualization to realization, i.e. taking those initial thoughts about a concept, and turning it into reality: a living, thriving, hospitality venue.
One of the first comments I got for a project that I created and launched in Dubai not too long ago was that it felt “lived-in.” It had an energy that we had created not just by its design, fixtures, and fittings, but by the energy created within the space through the engagement and focus of the colleagues. But the one true element that gives an outlet soul is its emotional connection with its customers.
We regularly talk about the secret to generating repeat business in our operations, and it has been clearly defined as being when the customer treats the outlet as their own place. This ability to create “shared ownership” with your clientele is based on establishing and creating an emotional connections with guests. The pride generated through that connection goes on to be the most powerful tool that any outlet can achieve through its customers- that of shared ownership with the outlet.
People want to feel nurtured and respected and when entering your outlet; they also want to be made to feel important. These key attributes go a long way to generating the heart and soul of an operation, thus leading toward that pinnacle of delivering true hospitality. And as I have stated previously across many forums, those responsible for ensuring your outlet has soul are those on the frontlines of daily operations– your team. If they too can feel pride, and experience some form of emotional connection with the outlet, this carries forth, and it multiplies innumerably with your customer base.
Now, I grant you that this is the most challenging part of creating outlets with soul. But if one is able to engineer a focus on true and honest employee engagement, where successes are heralded and failures are considered learnings, one can be assured that the very heart of their operation will continue to beat consistently.
It is humbling sometimes to step out of the daily operations for a minute, and look at the people coming into your establishment. And so, for those of you who would like to inject more soul into your operation, I challenge you to rethink how you look at your guests. Think of them as guests coming in for the first time, and that they are walking in with an invisible sign around their necks saying, “Make me feel important,” and take it from there.
Ultimately, we are all in the business of making people feel good. It’s a truly magical business to be in, if I am honest, and with a little soul in your venue, generating that emotional connection with your guests will be made just that little bit easier.