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How To (almost) Guarantee Repeat Business


by Travis Miller
Last week was my 4th wedding anniversary. To celebrate we checked out a relatively new addition to the Central Florida dining scene, Oceanaire Seafood Room. Believe it or not, excellent seafood is not easy to find here in Orlando. There's really only one place, Roy's, which brings us back again and again for seafood. Well, now there's another. Lest you think this restaurant makes it to my 'A' list because it served high quality seafood, perfectly prepared, let me explain otherwise. While it's true that the food was as good as it gets, that's not the reason why I am certain that I will return. Eating at Oceanaire Seafood Room set me back just over $200. At $200, I expect the food to be wonderful. And there are literally dozens of restaurants in this city that make that mark, but you don't see me returning to them often. In fact, a $200 meal really becomes more of a special occasion thing than a Friday night thing. But there's something really special about this new place that would cause me to a) certainly be more likely to return here than somewhere else for my next special occasion, b) be more likely to return here for non-special occasions. So, what was that 'something' that made it so special? Simply put, it was perfectly 'sensational.' Let me tell you about it.... The entire restaurant is themed around a 1930s ocean liner. That's what I read on their web site. For most places, that word 'theme' would go about as far as a picture on the wall. Not here. Everything from the way the service staff was dressed, to certain menu items, to the decor...literally, soup to nuts...carried the theme. We started out at the bar where they offered Harvey Wallbangers, Rusty Nails, Singapore Slings, and a dozen or so other classic cocktails you rarely see. Those we sampled were expertly prepared by a white jacket-clad bartender in his gorgeous art-deco bar. Naturally, the swing music and standards added to the environment. Next we were seated at our booth—a high-backed leather deal with chrome accents. The waiter comes around, also wearing a long white jacket (almost like a lab coat), only his was outfitted with alligator clips on either end of a thin metal chain. I have no idea what that or that coat means, but I certainly got a 30s vibe from it. Our menu had been printed for us and said 'Happy Anniversary' on the top (nice touch). The menu had the largest array of fresh seafood I've seen here in town, plus very unique preparations, some of which were purportedly from that bygone era. Food? Perfect. As it should have been. At the end, the waiter came by with a card, which had been signed by 20+ members of the staff, wishing us a happy anniversary. And then they offered us dessert to celebrate, which turned out to be a 12" tall mountain of Baked Alaska (apropos to the theme). So, here's the sensational breakdown: Interested: They were interested enough to ask if it was a special occasion when I made the reservation, and genuinely interested enough to actually do something about it when I arrived. From the host to the barman to the waiter, everyone knew it was our anniversary, and everyone made it a point to mention it. Throw in the card and the personalized menu...Nicely done. Unique: This is like no other place in town. The theme was obvious, recognizable, congruent, and all-encompassing. I forgot to tell you that the men's room was all white tile with chrome accents, with mouthwash, aftershave, hair combs in disinfectant, even bryllcreme. It was like walking into my grandfather's bathroom 70 years ago. Where most places put a picture on the wall, and call it a day, this place literally turned their restaurant into an attraction...but in a very tasteful way. Fun: The music, the classic drinks, the ice cream in a dixie cup, the flaming desert. Yep, this was fun. It's easy for a restaurant to be (good, delicious, fancy, etc)....but it's not so easy for it to be truly fun on top of it all. Risky: it takes guts to where a lab coat with alligator clips. It takes guts to carry a theme out from beginning to end. This place took risks that payed off. Visible, credible, spreadable: great location, right on I-Drive. Excellent reviews. And overall, an experience that would be impossible not to tell others about. In all, this dining experience was an essay in encouraging repeat and referral business. I'd encourage you to try it next time you're in Orlando. And I recommend thinking about how you could apply some of this thinking to your own business.