Think about the best place you’ve ever eaten a meal. Now think about what made that experience truly great. That’s right: it’s not all about the food.
Sure, amazing food should always be a top priority. But dining at a really good restaurant is also like a mini-holiday — and it’s the sum of a million little things that make that holiday a truly stress-free, relaxing getaway.
And so, it’s the same when you eat at a brilliant restaurant. Just like a great holiday destination can be ruined by a terrible holiday experience, there’s more to a good restaurant than just great food and drink.
As a customer, it’s all about the service you receive. As a cafe, restaurant, or any other food establishment owner or manager, delivering great customer service must simply be the top priority after having an excellent product.
Of course, getting there is a little trickier. If you think your customer service might be slightly lagging, here are few sure ways to give your offering a definite boost:
A great food establishment runs like clockwork. If customers are complaining that food takes too long to arrive, and staff seem stressed and disorganised, chances are your basic processes need to go under the microscope.
It sounds obvious, but how much do you actually know about what your staff are doing? Are you sure their processes are working? Are they following through with how you trained them? Are you sure their training was right in the first place?
Remember, good service starts from the moment a customer enters that front door and doesn’t finish until they leave satisfied, so watch and quiz your staff about what precisely they ‘do’ at each step of the way, and whether it’s really working.
Good restaurant management is one thing, but it’s not possible without all the right gear. It could be that sticking with your ‘old faithful’ catering equipment saves you money today, but a wise investment could make it easier and faster for your staff to deliver good food to your eager customers.
It doesn’t end behind the scenes either. A ‘bad fork’ or a mismatched water glass could be the one negative thing that tainted an otherwise perfect night at your restaurant, and prove ultimately just as important as your state-of-the-art e and comfortable chairs.
3. The Menu
Well trained, friendly, efficient — these are all necessary qualities, but basic training for restaurant staff should also stress the importance of knowing the menu inside and out. Asking a server if there’s something they recommend is a common query — and a blank stare rather than a confident answer is not only off-putting, but a clear sign that even the staff aren’t proud or invested in your establishment.
Knowledge around your product is also vital if, as often happens, a customer needs to know if any menu items contain specific ingredients. Food intolerances and allergies are becoming increasingly more common, so training your wait staff in what dietary requirements are will help them help the customer. Even if the wait staff are the friendliest a customer has ever met, not getting a good answer is as sure a signal as any that your customer service is not worth writing a good review about.
4. The Staff
Unfortunately, turnover of staff in service industries is notoriously high, which makes hiring and retaining hospitality staff a particular challenge for food establishment managers.
Restaurant management that listens as well as they train is a great first step when it comes to staff retention. Once staff know exactly what is expected of them, keeping those lines of communication open means every person will feel engaged and involved with how processes can be constantly improved, fostering genuine pride within a cohesive ‘team’.
But another common reason staff leave is because there is little incentive to stay. Many managers will therefore implement reward schemes, which go beyond offering top pay and a few perks. Turning hospitality work into a career choice with flexible hours, social or sports programs, and even bonuses for reaching targets are all extra ways to engage staff and keep them working for you. If the staff are happy, chances are they will be more willing to go the extra mile for your customers.
5. The Complaints
While it’s all too easy to tell an angry customer not to slam the door on the way out, a great restaurant manager will regard a complaint as a pot of gold. Over 90% of unsatisfied customers will not actually complain — so you’ll never actually find out what their problem was!
That doesn’t mean every complaint is right, but it does mean that every complaint should be seen as an opportunity. It’s one of the easiest ways to identify faulty processes and isolate substandard catering supplies, and highlight staff members who need better training.
In summary, every complaint is a challenge to the status quo — and for the open and evolving food establishment, that can mean getting things done better in the future.
6. Your Restaurant (It’s all about the customer.)
While it’s tempting to say a great restaurant is all about the food, that’s actually not right. A great restaurant is all about the customer, and whether their experience from walking in the door to walking out left them feeling great.
Happy customers will spend more, come back again and again, and tell all their friends that the care and respect shown by the staff was just as good as the delicious food on their plates. And that’s why constantly and honestly monitoring, analysing, and improving customer service should be an absolute priority for every cafe, restaurant, and food establishment.
Want more insight into how overall experience drives more return visits? Download our free eBook “The Key to Successful Restaurant Marketing” today!