3 Customer Experience (CX) Learnings... From a Chef

When it comes to experience design, I love learning from other industries. Since achieving an emotional connection with humans is really the very core of experience, the learnings, applications and methodology of experience design can be easily translated between a variety of industries.

I was eating out last weekend and after a great conversation with the Chef and some of the other people working at the restaurant, I got thinking about the dining experience. The restaurant industry is well known for being incredibly tough to achieve success in. In fact, around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year and nearly 80 percent shutter before their fifth anniversary. There are literally thousands of places to eat and drink in California alone. It got me thinking, how do they differentiate? What makes you as a customer feel a connection and a pure sense of happiness and love for a particular place. I am sure we can all name our 3 favorite places to eat - those that we would recommend to a visitor, or take friends and family to. What is it that drives and enables these places to deliver a customer experience that keeps us coming back for more?

While there are many aspects to the restaurant industry, from my conversations 3 areas of focus clearly played a large role in enabling them to get the experience right. I decided to look into a couple of other of my favorite places to see what some of the trends could be. Of course, "the experience" must align with the restaurant's own vision, brand, and strategy as a business, but the themes I found also make great considerations for any organization focused on Customer Experience (CX).


It is imperative to understand that the underlying structure, policies and operational environment hugely impacts the ability to deliver the experience to the customer.

Looking at the organizational set up at the restaurants, there tends to be defined roles and responsibilities for efficiency and for the best use of skills, for example front and back of house. However, many people working there have skills that enable them to step in should they need to when demand is high, providing the restaurant with flexibility.

There are optimized internal processes. This goes right through from the chef receiving the order in the kitchen, to the team creating the food, and the servers getting it to the table in a fast enough time to ensure it is still fresh with the flavors tasting as intended.

There is a balance of physical design for operational efficiency, as well as the customer experience. For example, the location of the bar, kitchen, and tables designed to enable a circulation for easy and fast movement around the space.

There is an understanding that technology can be used for operational efficiencies, such as better bill processing, order taking and communications between staff. There is also an understanding of how to use technology for the customer externally, from booking through to in-room experience and post-dining interaction. Additionally, knowing the importance of word of mouth, there is also a focus on social strategy for enabling easy recommendations and special offers to drive demand.



The people who deliver your experience through direct interactions with customers play a massive role in how your customers feel.

Here, there are both internal and external elements that come into play. For the dining experience, you can think of external elements as moments of interaction - for example, taking a reservation, greeting customers, taking an order, serving the food and even dealing with a complaint. In restaurants with a great experience staff demonstrated clear characteristics that helped to drive a genuine connection between themselves and the customers. This included the ability to listen, a love for learning, passion for the food type that the restaurant served, knowledge of the food/drinks on the menu, and a natural curiosity. Their personality led to the customers liking them as people. The take away here is that indicators of characteristics that are not easily taught should definitely be hired for.

Then, there were the internal aspects. You can think of this as the relationship between staff members, a sense of community, or team feeling. This included an environment of trust, fun, respect, clarity of communications, and the sense that everyone was working together towards the goal.

"It's a great team. Team work is everything as it really affects morale. Having great communication between the team and fun people that respect each other, enables us to provide our customer experience."
Cornell Barrett: Coconuts, Palo Alto, CA

The employee experience for those working in the restaurants was critical. This spanned from flexible work arrangements, compensation and team incentives, to training and growth opportunities to learn more about the trade and advance in responsibilities, right up to the style of leadership. It was clear that being enabled to make their jobs a happy and fulfilling part of their own lives also enabled them to deliver a great customer experience in their diner's lives.


This is the understanding that several factors come together in order for the customer to feel a connection to the brand through the experience they are having.


In the dining experience, this included factors that spanned the service, the atmosphere and the physical look and feel of the restaurant, as well as the actual food and drink being served. Quality played a huge role here, as did meeting expectations. For example, is the brand attracting people for a "posh" night out, a quick bite, a date, friends catching up, or does it cater to several of these?

When everything comes together as expected and in alignment to the perceived value and feeling of the experience, a connection is driven between the restaurant and the customer, leading to repeat business and those all-important recommendations - both direct (to other people the diner knows) and indirect (through social reviews and recommendations).

In Summary

All of these pointers taken from delivering a dining experience are easily translatable to any industry focused on CX. When thinking about your own CX focus, remember to look at the following aspects:

  1. Are you operationally enabled to deliver the desired experience?
  2. Are the people that interact with the customers the right people, and are they enabled to uphold the desired experience?
  3. Do you truly understand the factors that lead to an emotional connection with your brand?
  4. Are your metrics and measures aligned to all of these components - operations, employee experience and customer experience?


At EffectUX we help our clients discover the exact factors and attributes that enable the successful achievement of their vision, across their business, their customers, their users and the employees that work to deliver the experience.

You can find out more about growing a culture of Customer Experience, as well as your Customer Experience Maturity Level by taking a quick evaluation here.