It’s All About “Make Me Feel Important”, or Sometimes Being a Great Restaurant Isn’t Only About The Food

Sometimes Being a Great Restaurant Isn’t Only About The Food. Similarly, being a Great Dental Office Isn’t Only about the Dentistry.

It’s so much more.

A great restaurant experience is all about the *Experience*. It’s about the atmosphere, the ambience, the wait staff, the efficiency, the courtesy, the friendliness, the delivery. And it’s also about the food.


But it’s not *just* about the food.

Last night I dined out with friends at the best restaurant in the district. Outside of Sydney, down near our farm.

Well it was rated the best. After all, it had two “Chef’s Hats” in the recently released edition of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, the Sydney Foodies’ Bible, so to speak.

And it was difficult to book for. Which means it was popular. I booked something like four weeks in advance for a Saturday night sitting for four.

But sadly, all was not as the owners would have wanted it to be. Or maybe it was…

Here’s what happened.

My wife and I arrived twenty-five minutes prior to our 8:30pm booking.  We were early. We knew it. And we were told our table was still being prepared.

So we were escorted toward the bar for some pre-dinner drinks. However, the bar area was busy, so we were then ushered to a lounge away from the bar area to wait for our friends.

A young waitress approached to offer us a choice of waters? We chose to delay that choice, and ordered a couple of Gin and Tonics with lime.

Which arrived fifteen minutes later. With lemon and no lime…

Our friends arrived promptly at 8:30 and joined us on the lounge. After going and fetching their own drinks from the bar. However, at five minutes before nine, and with no communication whatsoever from any restaurant staff, I decided to chase up the maître de to see whether we could be seated for dinner.

Now you must remember that this is not Sydney, but rural NSW, where dining out late is not really the norm. And my friends, who are locals, remarked that they recognised no familiar faces in the restaurant, indicating that the diners were more out of towners.

Our waiter, Stephen, was very pleasant and efficient, but seemed handcuffed by protocols.

On seating, our menus were presented.

And surprise surprise! A choice of five or seven courses of degustation???

Now this would have been nice information to have been told at the time of booking, or at the time during the confirmation phone call on the day before???

You see by choice, my wife and I choose not to eat certain foods. So we can be awkward diners, in some cases.

But what the heck? Steakhouses serve fish and seafood, so we usually get by OK… Well not here it seems…

A third dining option was a three-course meal from a third page of listed courses. Now, at 930pm a three courses meal only was not going to cut it. Period.

And there wasn’t a sufficient number of non-meat dishes on the list to stretch to seven.

So it seemed to take an eon for the decision to be reached by the restaurant to allow us to have five courses of our own choosing….

So off we began…

For an 8:30pm sitting we certainly seemed to be dying of thirst and starvation by 9:20pm. That’s for sure…

After these initial hick-ups our meal progressed through the evening. Good friends. Good wine. Good humour. We had some fun, though there were times when servings were spaced a little too far apart, and wine glasses were occasionally not replenished quickly enough, if you get the picture…

Sadly, the evening ended on a sour note when the maître de came to inform us of a 3.5% surcharge on American Express card usage.

Now I’m used to being whacked for using Amex. And I’m OK with two percent, and sometimes more. In fact I’m just negotiating with Amex myself for an extra Merchant agreement. So I know their numbers.

But 3.5%? Well I told the maître de my feelings. That this was just purely a sting. Nothing less.

And he stood his ground.

So I told him there would be no tip.

And there wasn’t….

[Though we left Steven a cash tip which we gave him separately]

So what are the lessons we can learn here that can be applied to dentistry and particularly to your own dental office?

Firstly, let’s deal with the Credit Card Surcharge.

My thoughts are if you are charging a high-ticket item, like fine dining or dentistry, then just incorporate the credit card fee into your price or fee. End of story.

There is zero benefit in showing and declaring it as an add on. None. Nil. Zip.

A twelve dollar surcharge on a $390.00 meal? Talk about looking petty.

And I guess the same goes for retailers of low-ticket items…how mean and stingy do you really want to look to your clients and customers?

Secondly, know your time and run to time.

When the booking is for 8:30pm, be ready for us at 8:30pm.

If the table isn’t ready, then please inform me and let me know. Same in dentistry. If the doctor is running behind, let the next patient know there is a delay.

Offer me a drink on the house if there is a delay. Mary Kay Ash said it best. “Make me feel important”

Offer your patients a tea or a water to refresh while they wait.

If I turn up early, thank me for coming early, and pander to me.

This restaurant was just one customer service fail after another. We were not able to go to the bar, and then offered water rather than something stronger? And even that was served up wrong.

For restaurants, pre-dinner drinks are free money…it’s extra on the bill. This place did not make us feel wanted at all.

Secondly, some pre-information about the degustation would have been important. I don’t know why we weren’t informed, but at the time of booking a simple question like:

“When was the last time you dined with us?” or,

“Have you dined with us recently?”

would have sorted out and drawn out the desired answer that this was our first time, and then they could have said:

“Now on Saturday nights we serve a choice of degustation menus only.” Followed by:

“Will this be OK for you?” and

“Does any of your party have any dietary requirements or restrictions?”

You see, it’s all about knowing your customer.

Imagine in dentistry if you gave every new patient a sixty minute crown appointment?

“Well that’s how we do it here!!” doesn’t really work, does it?

In dentistry, a few preliminary questions to the caller will allow them to be booked with the appropriate dentist or hygienist, and also for the appropriate amount of time as well.

This restaurant knew nothing about me before I arrived.

Finally, service recovery.

Make sure in dentistry you have systems in place. This restaurant had no service recovery systems at all, it seemed.

There was very little flexibility with the menu and ingredients. Perhaps an a la carte menu as well may have been in order.

I certainly struggled to be satisfied with my five portions.

In dentistry, when we mess up, we need to have systems in place to create a needed wow for our customers.

If we’re running behind time we make our waiting patients feel pampered and special. Nothing less.

In the treatment room, if they need a special pillow or a blanket, we know that, and have it ready for them.

We feed back with enquiring questions to make sure we’re adding to our patient’s experience, making sure we do our best to make each visit an *Ultimate* Patient Experience.

Because in the end, that’s what our clients, customers and patients will judge us on.

How we make them feel.

Not how good is our food.

Or how good are our restorative margins.

Because, in the end, it’s all about “Make me feel important”….


Developing Great Customer Service systems, is  just one of the  many benefits of using the straight forward and easy to implement  modules  that make up The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple to build system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me at

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