3 Lessons Retail Can Learn From Restaurants

Retail and restaurants may appear to be two separate industries, and two that hardly interact with one another. But there is a core similarity – they are both customer service businesses. This platitude is shedding light on a crucial issue within the retail industry.

The issue and key differentiator between retailers and restaurateurs is how they approach customer service. And this is where retail can learn from restaurants.

The restaurant industry knows to market an experience. From thoughtful plating and attentive service to evocative dish descriptions and great ambiance, restaurants’ offerings go beyond just the food. When restaurants are able to do so and do so well, they see direct and indirect benefits. For example, a direct benefit is that the diner is more likely to order more than they intended, if met with a superior customer experience. And indirectly, your diners may love your plating and Instagram a photo of their dish or Tweet about it, and voila, free advertising.


Unlike the restaurant industry, retailers have been slow to adopt this approach. They largely depend on what’s in their shelves and hanging on their racks to be their unique selling point. But shoppers aren’t only making purchasing decisions based off of the product, McKinesey finds that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels.

The good news is like restaurants, retailers can provide a superior customer experience with a few simple solutions:

1. Look And Feel

Your store’s ambiance influences traffic. On a basic level it should be clean and orderly but to really attain and retain consumers, the atmosphere should be designed to target your clientele. Atmosphere directly impacts consumers’ moods, so the more positive consumers feel while in your store, the more time and money they will spend.

2. Stellar Service

Tipping in restaurants is a significant incentive for servers to provide quality service. And since commission is not always offered, or stands as a smaller portion of retail employees’ income, it is more important than ever to have happy and engaged employees. Optimize your staffing levels and engage your staff with some fun competition! For example, track employees’ sales based on a certain week, see who sells the most of a particular item, and reward them.

3.  Go Omnichannel

By deploying a multi-touchpoint customer experience, shoppers will spend more and are much more likely to return to the store. Restaurants have seen increasing pressure to stay competitive, and in response, many restaurants have an omnichannel customer engagement strategy in place.

retailRetail stores can leverage mobile technology and social media to create a brand narrative, provide rich content, and engage shoppers where they are. This is integral to a customer retention strategy, and Business2Community reports that businesses with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a shift in the industry where promises of “superior customer service” have been replaced by “superior customer experience,” so true that the term has become ubiquitous. As a retailer you can take a page from the restaurant industry and design a store that offers an experience.