It’s the age-old question. What makes a good restaurant?

It’s all about customer experience. When you consider that some of the greatest dining experiences we’re likely to have, are not even in restaurants – picnics with your family, big backyard barbecues, special occasion dinners at a beach house or at your nan’s place – it is the restaurants that capture the spirit of these wonderful occasions with family and friends, that have the winning edge.

That’s not to say, of course, that good restaurants should have nan’s rocking chair propped up in the corner or a chef, dressed up in his gardening cloths, turning blackened snaggers on a backyard barbie. At the very core of any good restaurant’s offer is that unbridled hospitality that makes people feel warm, wanted, cheerful and loved. Only then does good cooking, stylish menu design, slick waiters and great wine service have their role to play.

And you know it when you see it. Walk into any restaurant that ‘gets it’ and from the moment you push open the door you feel somehow at home. If you’re a foodie, you may even feel a little quickening of the heart – a lovely shiver of anticipation, if you will.

Of course, we go to restaurants because we like their food or they have a reputation for great cookery. But, should they get the customer experience wrong, you won’t be back, guaranteed.

Successful food is many things to many people, which is why there are so many restaurants, all of them with a rusted-on audience who swears that this kimchi brisket burger is better than that grain salad with shaved salted egg. One thing all great dishes have is that they transport us, they create food we couldn’t cook at home. They are dishes in balance. They are creative, perhaps innovative and most certainly tasty. They can be challenging too. And yes, that set of rules, such that they are, extends to all food: everything from a good burger to braised, charred pork ribs with XO sauce or a clever breakfast bowl at your local café.

But most important of all, it has to be value for money, whether it’s a $12 bowl of ramen or a $120 Wagyu steak, value for money is something we all recognise.

And finally, a good meal in a good restaurant has to include just a little bit of show-biz, that small element of theatre that makes even a fish and chip shop something out of the bag.

Image courtesy of Propeller.

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