Gerald Zaltman’s excellent book “How Customers Think” explores memories and how they relate to the perception of the customer experience. Our memories are unbelievably malleable, a work in progress, “not a single unchanging structure within the brain.”
“…how we remember an experience…hinges on whether the triggering cue for that memory is positive or negative. If a friend describes a positive dining experience, then we may recall our experience as less offensive than it actually might have been, if our friend describes a negative experience then even though we had a positive experience , we will tend to remember what could have been better.”
The challenge for restaurateurs is to create nothing but fantastic memories for everyone. There is also the notion of priming, leaving clues along the way below the level of awareness that enhance the experience. By way of example, if the guest who walks into your restaurant and sees nothing but happy smiling people, they will tend to be happy smiling customers regardless of their own experience.
A restaurateur’s work is never done, the design, the menu, the presentation, the customer interaction and after all that you need to deal with malleable memories!