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The fishbowl helps increase satisfaction and loyalty in restaurants

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Most upscale restaurants are by now equipped with a “fishbowl”, reserved for VIP and the best clients of the restaurants. Have you ever heard about this ? If not, read further …

A marketing tool to increase satisfaction and loyalty

The fishbowl is a remarkable tool that will make your customers feel unique and will increase loyalty and word-of-mouth. Fishbowls don’t exist officially : they are tiny spaces for one table located within the kitchen of the restaurant. They are usually conceived as a glass “cage” (hence the name fishbowl) to protect guests from the heat and the smells . Thibaut Danancher, in a recent article (in French) published in Le Point, reports on the fishbowl of Alain Ducasse at Le Plaza Athénée (see also the video below, in French)


Danancher explains that Ducasse is the only one who can decide whether someones deserves to be admitted in the fishbowl. Beyond the mere customer experience (enjoying food prepared just in front of you), there is definitely a social aspect at play. Only one person controls access to this sacred placed: the Chef himself. And he’s very selective as the article by Danancher reveals.

Not a recent invention

While we were researching some material to illustrate this article, we were surprized to learn that it’s not a recent invention. As a 1997 article published in Liberation reveals, Ducasse had already a fishbowl some 20 years ago when Jean-François Piège (27 years old at the time) was still his Chef. From the article, the reader understands however that the journalist was able to book the fishbowl. This seems to have changed in the meantime. Nowadays, because it doesn’t exist officially, you can only be invited to go to the fishbowl. Times have changed, and social segregation too. Even among the most privileged.

The view of the Expert, Prof. Moshe Davidow

We asked Prof. Moshe Davidow, one of the authorities on customer satisfaction, to detail for us the correlations that exist in 2020 between customer satisfaction and loyalty, customer experience, emotions.

In this short podcast (in English), we offer you a complete overview of the issue. You will be able to make a parallel with the subject of this article (the chef’s tables). You will be prepared, for example, to draw a parallel between the emotions generated and satisfaction / loyalty.

The Chef’s table

The fishbowl is of course only a term among others used to call the “Chef’s table”. Ducasse is not the only one to propose it, but it is certainly the most exclusive one because you can’t book it. If you are curious to see how Ducasse’s fishbowl looks like, read the blog by Pourcel twins. There is a picture of it. As you wil see it’s not very large (ca. 15m²).

Other examples of Chef’s tables include The Ritz (if you read French have a look at this excellent report) which looks VERY large and can’t really considered a fishbowl.

Advice for your marketing strategy

Fishbowls or Chef’s tables, are not unique to 3-star restaurants. Thet are by now being adopted by restaurants of lower ranks. Their “downward” adoption forced top chefs to reevaluate how to preserve their exclusivity. Ducasse succeeded very well. The secretive nature of the Plaza’s fishbowl, the impossibility to book it, is a successful way to keep VIP satisfied and ensure loyalty. Sometimes, very loyal yet “normal” customers, may get an invitation to enter this sacred place. Isn’t that a great reward for your loyalty?

Photo: Shutterstock
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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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