The Vapiano customer experience

Vapiano
Last week I had the good fortune to travel to Munich in Germany and whilst there I stopped by one of my favourite Italian-themed restaurants – Vapiano.

Although the German restaurant chain has expanded into other countries (including the UK) over the last few years, I had never encountered Vapiano until I first visited Munich back in 2010. Apart from the great food, atmosphere and location of the Munich restaurant, I also like going to Vapiano because I am intrigued by their innovative customer experience!

First impressions

Vapiano first impressions

What is immediately different from many other restaurants is what you encounter when you first enter the restaurant.

After being greeted by an attendant you’re provided with a chip card which is used to store information on everything you order. This takes away the need for wait staff and allows the customer to order what they want, when they want.

The layout of the restaurant is quite expansive and furnished with tall tables and stools as well as benches for groups to eat and drink together. It’s fairly minimalist and yet has a comfortable, friendly feel to it at the same time.

There is a ‘light’, fun atmosphere to the premises, which is well lit and decorated with black and white photography of Italian style and fashion.

Ordering

Vapiano ordering experience

Where the customer experience gets interesting is how you order your food and what happens afterwards.

Behind a long bar that stretches across the entire top floor of the restaurant is a number of cooks standing by waiting to take your order. Once you tell them what you want, they prepare your meal right in front of your eyes!

What I like most about this experience is that the customer can see exactly how their food is being cooked and prepared. All ingredients are fresh, from the pasta to the sauce, and you can tell the cook directly what you want adding or taking away (for example extra chillies, garlic or parmesan cheese).

By cooking someone’s meal right in front of them gives the customer a ‘behind-the-scenes’ feeling and allows them to not only see but smell all the ingredients come together.

Drawbacks

Along with the advantages are some notable downsides.

The restaurant can get very busy during peak periods (weekend lunchtimes and evenings especially) and when this happens queues form behind the ordering bar. Because everyone’s meals are individually prepared, there can be a fairly long wait should there be several people in front of you.

Vapiano are also very strict about the chip card and staff can get annoyed should you stray toward the exit if you haven’t paid!

Something different

I like Vapiano because it offers something different to anything I’ve experienced in the UK. It helps that I’m a big fan of Italian food but I’m also an advocate for good food, too, and that’s exactly what you get at Vapiano.

I’m also an admirer of interesting customer experiences. Although Vapiano’s doesn’t appeal to everyone, it nevertheless works because it breaks from the norm and gives customers a dining experience that is unique, fun and they won’t find everywhere else.


  • Susan Alexander

    Very cool, Gavin.  Hope to happen upon a Vapiano somewhere.  I love when restaurants figure out a way to do the restaurant experience differently. The usual drill is really very boring, when you think about it.

    I came across a restaurant in France a couple of summers that made me realize this – different drill, different format.  Loved it.  It was the most memorable meal in a 2 week visit to France and Italy.  It was way more about the overall experience than it was about the food (although that was good too).

    I wish more restaurants would have the courage to change it up a little, or a lot, don’t you?

    Fun post.  Thanks.
    Susan

    • http://twitter.com/gavinllewellyn Gavin Llewellyn

      Thanks a lot, Susan. I’m glad you liked the post!

      They have a Vapiano in NYC so it’s probably easier for you to get to one than me (the nearest one in the UK is London)!

      The quality of the food is obviously very important but I strongly believe that the overall experience can either add or detract to the way you perceive a restaurant.

      I agree that it’s important for restaurants, bars and other types of businesses in the hospitality sector to think differently and create new and intriguing customer experiences, especially in the current economic climate. With big brands and established chains dominating many people’s ‘mindshare’, it’s a good way of creating a competitive advantage and standing out from the crowd.

      Thanks again for commenting and adding your thoughts on a great experience you had, too 🙂