Are You Delivering a Memorable Customer Experience Like ‘Billy Goat Tavern’?

Think of your favorite place to go for food—what is it that you love about it? Is it simply about the food itself (an eat-and-get-out mindset)? Or does it take much more than that to gain your business?

My family and I are all about the whole dining experience! My all-time favorite eating spots are places that offer some sort of extra, special experience along with the meal…it’s like a signature for each place that makes it special and different.

The Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago is my favorite example of an all-around positive and memorable restaurant experience. This place is a real classic! They offer the most atmosphere, history, and fun I’ve ever seen within a small and simple restaurant. They were parodied on Saturday Night Live by John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Loraine Newman in 1978 and become nationally famous as “the guys behind the counter yelling at customers as soon as they walk in.” It’s super entertaining and sounds something like this: “Cheezborger! Cheezborger! You want doublecheez?!? Who’s next!?! WHO’S NEXT!?!”

Here are some other common answers exclaimed by Billy Goat Tavern staff:

  • If you take more than one second to answer the guy behind the counter, then he may yell something like: “Don’t look at the menu, look at ME! I order for you – DOUBLECHEEZ!”
  • If you only feel like a single, then the answer could be: “No. DOUBLECHEEZ!”
  • If it’s the end of the week: “It’s Friday, doublecheez for everybody! It’s payday! Triplecheez for the big guy!”
  • Want French fries with that? You may hear: “No fries – CHEEPS!”
  • Thirsty? Responses include: “No Pepsi – COKE!” or “Coke or Diet?!”

My first time in there, I tried ordering a steak sandwich but didn’t speak up enough for the guy, so I ended up with a “DoubleCheez,” which gave us something to laugh about. You just have to see the antics and atmosphere for yourself! Here’s a clip to tide you over:

How could anyone forget a restaurant like that? I highly suggest checking out The Billy Goat Tavern’s website to read more on their rich history. Then, find the Saturday Night Live video online and plan a night to check the place out for dinner and drinks. You will not regret it! They have several locations in the Chicagoland area (even Aurora is expected to get one soon), but I think the best one is the original, located on Michigan Ave in downtown Chicago. The Billy Goat Tavern is really a great place to eat and experience for families. Not to mention, their famous “DoubleCheez” is really good!

As amazing as Billy Goat Tavern is, there are other great places that offer a real experiences and great menu options, too. At Coldstone Creamery, the workers use metal ice cream scoops to put on a fun show for customers by clashing them together in tune to a song they all sing. At BD’s Mongolian Grill, the cooks toss their cooking utensils like batons and ring a big gong while customers are watching. At Dave and Buster’s, you can get an “eat and play combo” for a small additional cost and play shuffleboard, virtual driving games, and more after you eat your dinner. And who can forget Ed Debevic’s, where the waiters are intentionally rude and sarcastically funny to the customers. These eating places are selling so much more than a meal: the experience of just being there makes it even much more fun! It brings repeat customers (like my family) into the establishment over and over again.

I think extras at restaurants like these make them even more appealing and keep us going back for more! But do you think all customers feel this way? If they visit often, would they get annoyed? Or do they expect these extras when they come to that restaurant? How do other types of businesses use extras to pull in customers?

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  1. Doc

    Amanda, I couldn’t agree more!!! A restaurant experience is more than just a great meal. I would trade that steak at an upscale restaurant with an uptight waiter for a basket of chicken fingers at a fun sports bar any day of the week. Atmosphere means everything when I go out for a bite to eat.

  2. JPorretto

    I’m the complete opposite. Eat and Get Out! My satisfaction (and tip usually) is based on how quickly we can not be eating anymore.

    • Jill Tooley

      Haha Jeff, I’m very similar in that regard. Atmosphere is great and everything, but the most important thing is that I get my food, get good service, and get out in a timely fashion! 🙂

    • Scooby DOO!

      Do you even tip? … with money?

  3. Jana Quinn

    Awesome post, Amanda! I really like how you talk not only about the food but also the atmosphere. One of my favorite places I’ve ever eaten The Safe House in Milwaukee.

    One word: atmosphere

  4. Jill Tooley

    Great post, Amanda! I’ve never been to Billy Goat Tavern, but I’ve heard of it and I’ve totally seen that SNL parody. How funny! Their approach is fun and casual, and customers really seem to respond to that in a positive way. Personally, though, as a repeat customer I think I’d get tired of hearing people yell at me like that! But maybe that’s just me.

    I’m not horribly picky when it comes to restaurants and restaurant experiences…as long as the server is attentive and friendly, then I’m happy. Too bad that Coldstone Creamery doesn’t exist around here anymore, because that place was great! Their staff was a bit over-the-top, but they were always peppy.

    I remember going to Gino’s East in Chicago as a kid and being able to write on the walls and tablecloths – now THOSE were the days! 😉

  5. Scooby DOO!

    I think all of these places are not necessarily offering extras, but, rather, offering a unique experience. It’s that one-of-a-kind extraordinary “THING” that makes the restaurant stand out. It’s really McDonalds fault for making everything the same and now we yearn for just the opposite.

    South Philly has some gems, but none better than Pats Steaks.

  6. Peemo

    Although I appreciate the novelty of these types of restaurants – and the entertainment aspect of it, I much prefer a fine dining experience and the great food that comes with it. I’ll even take the perceived snootiness that might come with it.

    Prix fixe menus like whoa!

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    This blog is making me hungry. 🙂

    I honestly had no idea that the classic Saturday Night Live sketch was based on the Billy Goat Tavern. I would have thought it was the other way around. I’d actually be very interested to eat there, if only for the unique and memorable atmosphere.

    Of course, ending up with a “DoubleCheez” after ordering a steak sandwich isn’t cool in my book. Even the best cheeseburger can’t hold a candle to a good steak sandwich, and I’d probably be upset if someone got my order wrong. Haha.

    Great post!

    • Amanda Sneed

      Joe–Yeah, I did want the steak sandwich, but getting the DoubleCheez was a riot. My family knew that they were going to give me the burger since I didn’t speak up loudly enough for them. I found it actually more fun and memorable that my order played into their whole Billy Goat famous act. 😉

      • Amanda Sneed

        Oh, and the rest of my family did get the Double Cheez. So then, after not getting the steak sandwich, I asked them, “Wait, do they even serve anything else that’s on their menu?” lol. I found out they do serve the other items, but they jokingly give you a hard time about it….but of course, you have to really speak up, otherwise he’ll say “Double Cheez for you!”

  8. cyberneticSAM

    This also reminds me of the infamous Weiner’s Circle in Chicago, where the Chicago dog is made best. The service, however, is what put this place on the map. By this I mean anyone who has stepped foot near this place (even if they aren’t ordering) remembers it. It is completely dominated by female employees who don’t take crap from anyone! Even if you are as sweet as can be they yell, scream obscenities, and shake the tip jar at you with eye contact! But their food keeps people coming back for more and makes them willing to put up with the verbal abuse. It is very strange what people are willing to put up with for a hot dog… Take the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld and multiply it by about 100 and you have these angry servers who want you in and out. Any other business in the world would not survive this customer service but this place is THRIVING! Now there is a bold, ballsy business if there ever was one! Great POST!

    • Amanda Sneed

      So is this place actually run by crabby women? Or is it just part of their act like the Billy Goat Tavern & Ed Debevics?

      Sounds like a place we’d love to check out! =)

      • cyberneticSAM

        Oh no, it is no act! They really just don’t want to deal with stupid people or drunks so they let you know. I was terrified to order my food, but they mean business. Their food obviously makes it worth the anger, because as I said this place is ALWAYS busy and people always come back for more because they make a mean Chicago dog.

  9. Kyle

    I totally agree with this post! I’ve been to Ed Debevic’s and loved it. I haven’t been there in years, but I still remember it because it’s totally different than any other restaurant I’ve been to. I love restaurants with lots of atmosphere. I still have memories of going to Rainforest Café as a kid. Ah the memories…

    • LK

      Rainforest Cafe is a great example of the atmosphere that gets you to come in and eat. However, the few times I have been there, the food was not all that great. The amazingly cool atmosphere might be the reason it’s still open!

  10. Bret Bonnet

    This post makes me hungry! 🙂

    I used to LOVE eating at the Rain Forest Cafe growing up. Sadly though – there restaurants haven’t done anything to UPDATE themselves in years. Sure, 10 years ago an animatronic gorilla was super cool, but when I can watch 3D TV at home with special effects like those found in Avatar, TIME TO STEP UP YOUR GAME Rain Forest Cafe! I bet RFC makes more money selling the toys from its gift shop than it does from it’s food. It’s like an adult Chucky Cheese without the yummy pizza.

    I think Billy Goats is different and has survived the times because it’s atmosphere is consistent, unique, and impossible to “date”. Decor can become outdated, but people, people my friend are unique. Everyone is different and Billy Goat’s experience is unique because of the PEOPLE not the food (it kind of sucks to be honest – but I still eat there though!).

    I’m afraid to eat at Ed Debevic’s; I’m sure I’d mouth off right back and be asked to leave the restaurant before I even sat down to eat! 🙂

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