Menu Writing Lesson 8 : Understanding Customer Profiles

As a chef it is extremely important to know who your customers are and where they come from, also how often that changes either through the week, month or season. There are many complicated studies that look at variable demographics of customers down to what car they drive, the suits they wear, to how many children they have, but in this article, Kitchen CUT Co-Founder John Wood is simply going to outline some key points you (as a chef) need to consider when developing menus.

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There are 5 key areas a chef needs to consider:

Who are my current customers?

There is nothing more valuable as a chef than talking to your customers to really understand who they are and why they have chosen to dine with you. Try not grill them to get this information – just by speaking to them and asking gentle, probing questions you will soon establish many details about them. Whilst you are doing this you can also ask them about their meal to get valuable feedback – customers love talking to chefs. Make notes after you talk with them of their comments and details so you can refer back to this later. Consolidate this information over different meal periods, days and months so you can get a good picture of who your guests are. Knowing your customer profiles will give you huge insight in to your business and opportunities. I appreciate some chefs are more shy and some do not enjoy talking to guests, so if this is the case then work with the restaurant manager and the service team to establish this information.

How often does your customer profile change?

Knowing how often and when your customers change will help the chef make some sensible decisions on what they need to consider changing on their menus to accommodate the needs of his/her guests. Though these changes are likely to be more obvious in hotels, you can still see shifts in stand-alone restaurants if you look for it. Some typical profiles can be:

  • Ladies that lunch
  • Business people
  • Families
  • Young couples – no children
  • Middle aged customer – no children
  • Older customers
  • High disposable income customers – looking to indulge

NB: This does not mean to have to create a menu that accommodates every possible type of customer as you will end up with an extremely large menu that has no identity – but you need to consider your dishes’ suitability to your market and any market you wish to attract.

What about the people that do not dine with me?

If you wish to grow your business you need to understand where the customers that you want are currently dining. The ‘Customer pie’ is only so big – you just need to find a way to get a bigger slice than you have already!

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When owners say to me “I just want more bums on seats!”, (which many of them do), the first thing I ask them to look at is: What type of customers do you want on your seats? You need to know not only what market you are looking to get more of, but where they are eating at the moment and most importantly why are they eating there. Is it price, concept, menu, choice, ambiance, service, healthy options or a combination of everything? Once you know this you can make sensible calculated decisions on how you need to adjust/enhance your offering to attract more of these customers.

NB: Do not ruin or over complicate your concept by trying to be ‘all things to all men’ – this can just confuse customers and you will not get busier and you may lose the customers you already have.

Protect and grow

It is also very important with any form of business growth that you ‘Protect‘ first before you start to ‘Grow‘. Establish what your current customers like about you and the reasons they choose your establishment over anyone else. Once you know this you need to ensure you have the right systems and structure in place to continue to deliver that every day of the year. Then you can look at ‘windows of opportunity’ to grow your business by adapting your offer to attract more of the customers you want, whilst keeping the ones you have happy… Protect first, then grow.

Capture % Ratio in Hotels

What is this? Capture ratio % is the % of guests that are staying in your hotel that chose to dine in your restaurant. Measuring and monitoring your capture ratio % is an important measure so you can set yourself new targets and track your success. You then need to find out where the guests that chose NOT to dine with you are going and why they are leaving your hotel?

Tip: Creating better awareness and knowledge about your restaurant with the reception staff and front office team will help improve this capture ratio as well. Studies have shown that when asked if they can recommend a good restaurant 87% of the front office team will recommend restaurants outside their own hotel! We covered this in detail in an earlier Menu Writing Lesson – you can read it HERE.

Key Points

  • Who are your current customers?
  • What do they like about you?
  • Who are your new customers and where are they currently dining?
  • Keep it simple
  • Protect and Grow


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