When visiting a restaurant we have certain expectations. We expect to leave the restaurant with a belly filled with yummy, yummy food. But we also expect to have a pleasant experience. And while the level of pleasantry and how we define pleasant will depend on the type of restaurant we are visiting, it is important that the experience lives up to or better exceeds our expectations because these two aspects: the product (in this case the quality of food) and our experience nearly play an equal role on the decision if we will be returning to the restaurant. If either stink it is highly unlikely that we will be back. In fact, you could argue that the experience is even more important than the product itself:
A meal can be the most amazing meal ever had, but if the environment made you feel uncomfortable you will most likely never return. However, a meal can be anything from okay-ish to excellent, but if the experience was amazing and made you feel comfortable you will be back more often. After all, we are social animals and when it comes to food the social aspect plays a large role (Google it. There are many scientific papers out there on the subject).
#myexperience summed up
Tatsu Ramen is:
→ a delicious, authentic ramen restaurant
→ that serves healthy and balanced meals (even for vegetarians and vegans).
→ a young and passionate business that caters to a young urban clientele
→ with very friendly staff and owners that care about their staff.
Is this all the case? No idea! But it was #myexperience,
the impression I was left with and the reason why I would return.
On a rare overcast and chilly Los Angeles day all I wanted when entering Tatsu Ramen was a warming bowl of delicious ramen. The place is hard to miss while heading down Melrose especially if you have a love for ramen, bold design and the color black. I very much enjoyed the ramen (check out their Yelp reviews ) but what really excited me was the setup and user experience in the restaurant.
#1 Setting the mood
The entrance to the restaurant is lined with bamboo. I have never been to Japan but in China and walking through a bamboo forest is one of my favorite China travel memories. Obviously, this small setup is not as impressive as the giant Chinese forests but there is something about the fresh green colors, the shade that bamboo throws and it’s movement in the wind that set a great mood when walking in.
Inside the visitor is greeted not by friendly staff but by a row of digital displays lined up on the wall, which you can use to place your order: a clever bow to the order process of traditional ramen shops in Japan.
The ordering process itself is done in four easy steps, that actually managed to put a smile on my face. The visitor swiped through a list of ramen broths that can be selected and then customized. The application is super easy to use with a clean design. Like in Japan every dish is displayed with images, even the sides. What was spot on and my personal highlight was the wording: charming, brief, friendly and lingo on point with the target group.
Another humorous contact point are the ramen bowls themselves. Each bowl has two messages for the visitor. One can be seen when the bowl is full, at the beginning of the meal and encourages you to start enjoying your ramen. The other message is towards or at the bottom of the bowl and includes cheeky sentences such as “No, we cannot give you the recipe”. William Khoe, who created the app in collaboration with Tatsu Ramen was nice enough to send me a few screenshots. Thanks for that!
The guests dine at large, sociable tables that fit several people. Private tables are scarce but available. The tables are lined with condiment stations that include fresh garlic, sesame, nori, and anything guests could wish for in order to enjoy their ramen to their individual preferences. The number of images on Yelp of these condiment stations shows that the guests appreciate this gesture. The staff itself is not – as so often in the US service industry – clingy or overly attentive but friendly and available if needed. My personal impression of this setting was that it felt very human – catering to many different types of people.
#5 Showing personality
As my visit was nearing its end I was really interested to find out more about who the people were behind this place. I wanted to know if this was what it felt like: an owner-operated place built on the blood, sweat, and tears of a passionate founder). Good thing I visited the restrooms or I would not have found exactly the story I was looking for hanging from the walls in the shape of a comic strip:
To be honest I did not read up on the actual story and do not know if the founder Ryu had actually taken this journey but at this point, it wasn’t important. This was only additional information, the encore to an already enjoyable story and journey.
#6 Caring leadership
When exiting the restaurant the customer passes the last display of humour, personality but also of what appears to be good management: the Tastu Ramen digital tip jar (displayed on a tablet). The funny sentences on the digital tip jar change every few minutes and nudge the customer towards a tip by being so charming that the act of tipping is turned into something enjoyable. And while the idea is not new the difference is that the tip jars on pages such as funnytipjars.com, are most likely to be made by the employees themselves, while Tastu Ramen’s tip jar came from management. The visitor leaves the restaurant with the impression that management cares enough about their staff to make this for them.
All the listed gadgets, items, and design aspects were part of #myexperience and the user or better customer experience in this restaurant. Tatsu Ramen shows what can be achieved if a little love and much thought go into creating a delightful experience during a restaurant visit. It also displays the impact user or customer experience can have when it comes to customer trust and loyalty.