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When You Put Money Into The Wrong Customer Experience

When You Put Money into the Wrong Customer Experience

If you’ve read any of my posts, particularly those I write for Forbes, you know I write from experience.

Recently I visited a restaurant/entertainment complex in San Diego, and the experience left me less than satisfied. I’ve reflected on it, and come to the conclusion that the problem was this:

The owners invested money into the wrong aspects of the business.

From the moment my friends and I walked into Punch Bowl Social, we were accosted by the cacophonous noise levels. We aren’t by any means senior citizens with sensitive ears, but when you can’t hear the people across the table from you, it makes for a stressful meal.

Still, I was determined to have a good time. I’d read an article that talked about the giant Scrabble board, the karaoke, the bowling…and I thought it sounded like a good way for a group of adults to blow off some steam. However, after visiting the franchise’s website, I found very little details about the entertainment. The site felt very basic.

Where Did The Money Go?

punch bowl social

What Punch Bowl did get right is its design, despite having saved zero budget for noise-reducing insulation (Yelp reviews support my opinion of this). The place is an Instagrammer’s dream come true. The lighting was perfect. I got some great pics. And the activities throughout the venue looked fun…but after our mediocre meal, we hightailed it out of there.

And PS: we never found half of the activities listed in the article I read. A few signs would have helped us navigate.

Also, the place is called Punch Bowl, and there were about four meager punch bowl cocktails on the menu. Though I’d planned to have one, I changed my mind when I didn’t see anything appealing. Another black mark.

Know Your Audience

Rather than balancing out what would have made for a more pleasant experience for customers, the brand focused on the superficial. Granted, it’s a franchise so maybe they’re beholden to franchise design (and Yelp reviews in other cities complain about the noise, too), but I feel like the brand as a whole missed the mark.

Yes, bars are noisy. But the bar bleeds into the restaurant and into the play area, and a few walls would have muffled the noise a bit. No one likes having to scream to their waiter to order a drink.

The brand also lost opportunity on the website. Obviously, I’m a content marketer, so I could have done with more details. The site’s blog is nonexistent (give me a call, yo?). Because it’s a franchise, the site essentially has a landing page for each location, while not giving any flavor to the local venue.

In a city where we’re incredible food snobs (it has to be local, sustainable, organic, vegan, and gluten-free, not to mention taste great and not be overpriced), the menu simply fell short. My friend couldn’t even finish his chili. So again, know your audience. Simply throwing mushrooms on chips with melted cheese does not make awesome nachos.

I use Punch Bowl as a punching bag (har) to illustrate a point: you can spend millions of dollars and still get it wrong. Even with franchises, it’s important to carefully test out restaurant layout and design, have a localized website, and yes, make the food palatable.

Have you ever been to a restaurant or business that, despite your best hopes, simply got it wrong? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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