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Leave Me Wanting More

Great experiences are about more than just delivering what’s on the menu

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What better way to relax after a successful International Retail Design Conference than spending a few extra days in San Francisco? After months of planning, organizing and then finally putting the conference on, my agenda was quite simple: wine and dining.

There was the dinner that started with a sauté pan full of roasted garlic cloves and several plates of rolls. Then, a fun little hole-in-the-wall breakfast nook that served beautiful sculptures of fruit alongside your omelet and hash browns. The wine tour in Napa. The list (and the calorie count) goes on and on. I love the city and can’t wait to return again. Still, the trip ended on a somewhat sour note.

The final night in town included reservations at one of the city’s award-winning restaurants. The space was industrial and edgy. The menu, mouth-watering. The service, deplorable. As I walked out the door with my stomach still digesting the goat cheese tart, I felt unfulfilled. The entire experience reinforced the notion that it’s not as much what you deliver to customers that counts, it’s also what you don’t deliver.

Anyone who walks into your space – whether a five-star restaurant or a local boutique – has an expectation of that experience. Your goal as designers and retailers shouldn’t be just to meet those expectations. It should be to exceed them.

In a NPR interview with chef Grant Achatz about his new book, “Life, on the Line,” Achatz says his Chicago-based restaurant Alinea has one menu with 23 courses. The average dining stay is three hours. “With that food, we’re trying to tell a story and craft an emotionally rich experience,” he says. “Something that makes people feel.”

An emotionally rich experience is delivered through more than just a well-crafted menu of locally sourced ingredients. There’s the location, as illustrated in our special section this month on noteworthy restaurant designs from around the globe. There’s also the thoughtful customer service, hand-crafted light fixtures or the juxtaposition of wooden wall panels and concrete flooring.

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But the point is, it’s not just one of these items. It’s the combination of all of these things that delivers a satisfying experience. Forget one of these details and you’re not much better than a frozen pizza. It’s a lesson worth reminding yourself, whether you’re selling $5 trinkets, $50 entrees or $500 luxury handbags.
 

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