Three Ways Restaurants Can Embrace Transparency

Jake Nicol 20th April 2020
4 min
4 min

The word transparency has become more and more common in recent years: we are constantly hearing about the need and demand for it in almost every walk of life, from politics to business – and with very good reason. 

A lack of transparency, the ability for – usually very large and powerful -companies to obscure their practices and hide blatant wrongdoing has led to an all-time high in consumer distrust and disenfranchisement. 

Even today, when every major business leader is extolling the virtues of transparent conduct, there is still a sense that consumers are being duped in a different way. 

A recent study in the New York Times found that Facebook’s privacy policy is harder for the average person to understand than Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time – that is, rather than actively hiding things from us, businesses are making things so extraordinarily dull and difficult to make sense of, that we acquiesce to their demands out of sheer frustrated boredom.

The upside of this, however, is that increasing distrust of corporation leaves space for small and independent businesses to fill the void with their honest, human offering. 

The reality is, transparency is now not wholly optional: with online review websites and social media, consumers are going to find out about failings and flaws in your business regardless. And trying to obscure or deflect will only come across as suspicious. 

So regardless of how painful it can be, transparency as a business model and marketing strategy is an absolute must for small and independent restaurants looking to create an advantage over their larger competitors. 

Here are three simple ways your restaurant can gain from transparency and develop trust, loyalty and increases in revenue:

Treating your staff well

78% of consumers believe how a company treats its employees is one of the best indicators of its level of trustworthiness. The implication of this is that finding ways to go the extra mile for your staff – and finding ways to clearly communicate this to your consumers – will have direct, positive repercussions on your revenue. 

Simple things like announcing birthdays, celebrating high-performers or making it known that staff personally keep all their own tips can send the message that your staff are treated well and your business is transparent. These are acts which cost nothing but a small amount of effort and can have huge impacts on your business’s reputation and image. 

Being open with your customers

More than half of consumers report that ‘additional information’ about products is important in their decisions. And this is even truer of restaurant-goers, as health concerns, ethical concerns and safety concerns are all prevalent when dealing with food. 

Consumers want to feel that they can trust you as they might a friend. And small and independent restaurants are uniquely placed to meet this demand, because of their inherent intimacy. While providing nutritional information and being open about your supply chain and the cooking process will win kudos, there is an opportunity to make a real ‘experience’ out of this transparency. 

You might, for example, train your floor staff to provide these details directly, in a more personable, intimate way; you might even allow customers who are interested to see the food prepping process in action. This will, of course, depend on the specifics of your business and customer base, but embracing honesty in a more direct and forthright way is a clear signal to customers that you are an authentic, honest business that they can trust. 

Owning your mistakes

In a recent study of customers’ service experience, 25% of the moments cited by customers as great experiences were actually servers’ responses to errors, accidents or failures – mistaken orders, slow service and all the rest.

What this means is, by embracing and dealing with such moments well – by being transparent about what’s gone wrong rather than try to obfuscate or do ‘damage control’, you can actually create paradoxically great moments by owning your mistakes. The vast majority of consumers are far more offended by obfuscation or dishonesty than errors. 

This gives you options: you might, for example, actively amplify these moments online, allowing customers who follow you online to see how open with your failings you are and how well you deal with them; you might give your staff special training in how to navigate these moments best.  

Regardless of how you use this information, knowing that transparency about your failings can be an active benefit to your brand is a liberating realisation and, hopefully, will empower your restaurant to embrace more transparency in the future. 

To hear more about how transparency can fit into a more comprehensive restaurant marketing strategy, please download our recent e-book The Future of Restaurant Marketing here.