What publishers can learn from the restaurant experience

June 7, 2018 01:30

By Fergal Carr, SVP of Consumer Product at @Hearst Newspapers
 

This article first appeared on Medium and is reprinted here by permission.

On my recent vacation to Turkey, I enjoyed the sights, sounds and culture, but beyond that it was the seamless and customized dining experience that really stood out. Whether it was a simple neighborhood locale or a fine dining establishment, I realized that my dinner experiences offered a clear demonstration of a focus on the user, which publishers today can learn from.

In Turkey, restaurants face heavy competition for foot traffic, not just for tourists but also locals. To capture your attention, hosts stand out front and welcome you with compliments, free samples and a display showcasing a selection of the daily specials.

There is typically an elaborate presentation of special menu items — beyond simply showcasing what is freshly caught or home-made, the presentation often includes flames, sparklers and, in some cases, even fireworks. These lead to memorable experiences and a true “wow factor”, all of which are captured in photos and video format and shared instantly on social media by many of the surrounding guests.

After dining at the restaurant even just one time, the host, in an amazing display of visual memory, greets you warmly by name and adds personalized touches to conversations thereafter. This seemingly simply recipe generates a positive experience for repeat business.
 
 
Now let’s consider why clients visit restaurants, and what would transform a casual local visitor into a regular customer. Clients typically frequent the same restaurants because they are local and they fulfill the user need. Getting the client to the restaurant is helped by reviews, word of mouth, a new chef, or an excellent menu. To encourage clients to become frequent visitors, the overall experience needs to be enjoyable.

From a revenue standpoint, restaurants use a combination of the food and drink they serve, along with sponsorships from brands for accessories. Users both understand and see value in these sponsorships as they are non-intrusive and give the user something of value.

If we use the below example as a rating system with focus on users it would include something like this:

Restaurant Experience

An example of a good experience could be: A satisfying meal, friendly wait staff, good ambience and a dessert that’s served with sparklers around it, i.e your “wow factor.”

An example of a bad experience could be: Loud music, slow service, overpriced items which then lead to negative reviews.

To change the mindset from someone who had has a bad experience, there’s likely a number of either small or major changes required.

These range from small areas such as temperature, music or providing a complimentary meal, to larger items like new menu updates or a rebranding and changing of the chef. To build trust and develop a long term relationship with the users takes time and significant effort.

Now let’s take the same goals and principles and adopt them for publishing. Similar to the clients in restaurants, users come to your products and sites because they fulfill an informational craving (for local, national or international news), with the main driver being the content topic and quality. They may have stumbled across the site through search or social, and are much more likely to return because they have had an enjoyable overall experience.

There are many ways to support this overall experience, including but not limited to creating your own “wow factor”, through content and multimedia experiences. Let’s call this the sparklers dessert that you just took a video of and posted to your social accounts.

Publisher Experience

Now if we match up the above areas of overall experience to that of publishing it may look like the below:
A good user experience is critical to success for both a restaurant and publishers perspective, however it’s not one thing alone that is going to drive long-term success, it’s the sum of all parts.
 
A great chef alone isn’t going to drive foot traffic and loyalty. Most users will require more than just the meal, they want to feel special, appreciated and a personalized touch will be expected to build up the relationship.

The same applies for publishing experiences. A user expects the same white-glove service including the site speed/performance, design, content topics, tools, cost, and interactive/multimedia.

Publisher Tips and Ideas:
  • Improve site performance — Don’t have users “waiting” around before you great them, especially on mobile.
  • Invest in quality journalists — The “meal” is the focal point of why the visitor is here in the first place
  • Create a user centered design approach — Leave a long lasting impression for your visitor, pairing elegant design with quality content will help you get there.
In conclusion, content alone will be enough to get you unique users. However, focusing on the user from their first visit until they leave and creating your “wow factor” will encourage habituation and make a long lasting impression.