In a restaurant, customer service is as important as the menu; However, customer service is the main Achilles heel of food businesses in the Dominican Republic, considers the coach and neurogastronomist louis valderrama.
The Venezuelan resident of the Dominican Republic says the country has a wide variety of ingredients and recipes and is experiencing a boom in signature cuisine, which is taking traditional dishes and elevating them to a new level. But, in his opinion, still need to improve customer service.
“There is a lot of care for the dish, but not for the connection with the client. For me that is the weakest part” of the food business, asserts Valderrama, who has experience as a chef and restaurant manager.
The Dominican is famous for being cheerful and hospitable, yes, but “the self-esteem of many people who are in front of the client, waiters, mainly, is not the best,” explains the neurogastronomist.
Many people work in food businesses out of necessity and that, according to Valderrama, is not enough. “You need vocation and training”because “they are the face of the restaurant, the extension of the chef”.
A restaurant doesn’t just sell dishes; offers a service. And this service, Valderrama insists, is not intended solely to satisfy hunger, since diners subconsciously want to have a pleasant experience and feel happy.
If you can make pasta at home, why would you go out to eat? To live the experience!
“We don’t just eat for survival, we eat very emotionally”affirms the coach.
The treatment by the staff is part of the experience, but other factors also come into play.
Neurogastronomy: eating with all five senses
It has always been said that food enters through the eyes and it goes without saying that taste and smell have the leading role in tasting. However, as neurogastronomy has verified, touch and hearing are not left out of the process.
Remember what happens when you buy fried chicken at a fast food chain? You catch the smell and your mouth waters. You hold a piece and perceive its temperature and texture. You take a bite and both the texture and the sound confirm how crunchy it is.
The whole environment, and not just the food per se, affects the experience. Valderrama says that the lighting, the colors, the music, the sounds, the dishes, the cutlery, the treatment, among other elements, are taken into account to connect with the client.
Listening to marine sounds when consuming shellfish or fish enhances the flavor of the dish. The same is true when eating with metal cutlery instead of using plastic cutlery.
“In this there is a lot of science,” says the neurogastronomist who shares tips and ideas through the Instagram account @ccneurogastronomia and the YouTube channel Gastronomic Coaching.
The neurogastronomydiscipline that arises from the combination of neurosciences and gastronomy, teaches restaurateurs these and other strategies to make the client connect with their emotions. “That – indicates Valderrama – is going to help the flavor intensify”.
The experience is not limited to the local
The social networks They have extended the expectation cycle of diners. “The expectation cycle doesn’t start when I try the dish,” says Valderrama, but “since I say: ‘Hey, this looks really good, let’s go there’”.
Restaurateurs have the challenge of turning into reality what the person has imagined. If that expectation is not met, the customer will feel dissatisfied, will not return to the premises, and will not recommend it. It could even leave negative reviews on social networks, thus affecting the public image of the business.
He boom of home delivery platforms brings another challenge for food businesses that want to take advantage of the knowledge of neurogastronomy: they have no control over the environment in which the person consumes their product or the personnel who deliver it to their door.
What is recommended in these cases? “As a restaurateur or entrepreneur in the food court, I can only influence what I control”Valderrama answers.
You have to put as much care as possible into food and packaging.
The neurogastronomist suggests some ideas, such as developing safe packaging that does not spill, placing all utensils (cutlery and napkins) preferably identified with the brand, using materials that are friendly to the environment or that retain heat and even smoke well, placing the menu of the business, personalize the packaging by writing the name of the consumer, create playlists with the music that plays in the place and share cooking tips.
To entrepreneurs and small businesses that lack the possibilities to hire a neurogastronomy consultant, Valderrama tells them that, broadly speaking, everything can be summed up in offer a good product (“If your product is good, everything else is easier”), Have hygiene, take care of the staff’s clothing and give the client a cordial treatment.
“It doesn’t matter if you sell empanadas on a corner, you can connect with the customer”he concludes.