Uncharted Waters: Restaurants on the Road

Many hungry travelers will be on the road this summer; where finding a good place to eat can be a challenge.  Having a laptop or phone application can help, particularly when in unfamiliar territory, but what factors do travelers really consider when deciding where to dine? 

In his book “The Little Big Things” Tom Peters mentions a trip from Vermont to Boston.  He states that he always stops at one specific drive-in restaurant about half way through the trip.  For him the reason is simple: the restroom is clean.  How many of us would make the same decision based on the cleanliness factor versus other compelling features?  To Tom Peters, restroom cleanliness implies that management cares about the establishment and its guests’ comfort.  This seems logical to me as, after traveling a number of hours, the first thought is generally for a restroom.  And, if the restroom is clean, we tend to make the same assumption about the kitchen. 

On a recent trip with my family we had driven for many miles without seeing anywhere to stop.  Finally, we stumbled upon a run down restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  The sign indicated they served fresh seafood.  Leery of the appearance, but in need of the restroom, and at least something to drink, we took a chance.  Behind the shack were fishermen bringing their catch in, cleaning it, and bringing the fish straight to the table after we chose our cooking method.  Clearly, the restaurant’s exterior did not reflect what was inside, and I can only imagine how many others just drive by.  Ironically though, the restrooms were immaculate and matched the quality of the fresh food.

But how do we know that the restrooms are clean or that the food is really great if the façade does not match the experience?  Perhaps this is why many people do not leave home without their pda, that constant access to reviews and feedback.   Some still bank on the fact that many of the best restaurants don’t seem that way from first impressions.

Regardless, while each restaurant may not be able to be everything to every guest, focusing on some of the most basic principles of the guest experience may gain you their business.  And to start… make sure the restroom is clean.

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