How to Improve Restaurant Customer Service: The 5 Point Plan
No matter what kind of restaurant you’re operating, excellent customer service is crucial to keeping it prosperous. While there are many quantitative metrics to measure in your restaurant (like how long it takes to cook an entree or the average customer wait time) identifying those intangible qualities of customer service can be a little trickier for an operator.
A staff attitude that may fly in a single-line diner may not work in something a little more “high end,” and vice versa. Still, the core principles of customer service – efficiently serving customers in a way that put their needs first – remain universal regardless of your restaurant’s menu or dress policy. If you’re looking at establishing a stable restaurant customer service policy, or you want to improve the one you’ve got in place, follow our list!
1. Create Clear Staff Expectations
Creating a “customer-first” restaurant culture takes time and consistent effort. For that culture to really “take hold,” you must communicate these expectations clearly to your staff. What are your expectations in how your team handles problems that arise? Do you have a clear action plan in place for them to follow? Document your restaurant’s customer service guidelines and policies and train staff, both new and old.
Remember that improving restaurant customer service is an active process, one that’s informed by what happens in your establishment, specifically. Take time to re-evaluate your customer service policy, updating and clarifying where applicable. Have regular team meetings to discuss the plan to keep everyone, regardless of turnover rates, on the same page.
2. Personalize The Guest Experiences
A personalized touch goes a long way in making a dining experience fun and memorable for a guest. Small steps like greeting a guest by their first name (“Hello Brenda! Right this way!”) put guests at ease and let them feel cared for and accommodated. Train your team on “service with a smile” hospitality concepts, and to project warmth and friendliness in their communications – both verbal and nonverbal. Things like eye contact and friendly body language, though simple, will make or break any encounter.
When guests have great experiences, they return to your restaurant, and they bring their friends. You can help to foster this kind of continued patronage with special loyalty programs and incentives. Remember also that personalized guest marketing can extend beyond the walls of your restaurant and into things like targeted Email campaigns and newsletters for those willing to utilize customer data.
3. Streamline The Wait Times
The worst part of going out, for any customer, is a long wait time. Modern technology and the rise of off-premise dining have given customers an unprecedented number of options in when, where and how they enjoy their food. Restaurant operators need to keep up! An automated solution, like a kitchen display system (KDS) that’s fully integrated with all the devices, will reduce these long waits. They implement software features like meal pacing and order tracking which ensures food is coursed for delivery (to table or off-premise) at the proper time. Furthermore, solutions that utilize real-time smart data (i.e., the actual activity in your restaurant) to generate customer quote times will keep your off-premise and in-store customer traffic perfectly blended, so one doesn’t crowd out the other.
Another restaurant customer service measure that can be employed is to make the waiting area more pleasant. For example, an Italian restaurant may provide a small sample of the pizzas on the menu. Some restaurants have implemented modern touches like an interactive quiz or video game system, which helps keep those parties with small children occupied. Whatever you choose, always strive to keep wait times to an absolute minimum.
4. Respond to Concerns
No restaurant is immune to a customer complaint. And though the degrees of their charges will vary, the way an establishment handles these claims shouldn’t. All restaurants should have an action plan in place for when something goes south. You can adjust yours as necessary, but ours goes:
Focus on the Customer
Listen to their complaint and take every measure you can to empathize with them, not interrupting until they’re finished.
Clarify the Problem
Thank them for letting you know about the problem, and make sure you fully understand it before moving on to the next step.
Your whole demeanor should be apologetic but make your actual apology count. Say “I’m sorry,” instead of “I apologize” and don’t go overboard with explanations or it will just seem like you’re making excuses.
Resolve the Issue
Do whatever is necessary to efficiently correct the wrong. In some cases, a disgruntled customer may choose to leave and never come back. Maintain composure and leave the figurative door open.
Report the Incident
Log and report the incident to your team. Examine your current customer service policy and rate yourself on how well you followed it. Do you need to update your strategy? Remember, these negative experiences can lead to positive changes in your customer service culture.
5. Do Table Touches
One final way to improve restaurant customer service is through the act of “table touches,” or when a manager comes out to visit with a table to ask guests how their experience has been. When a manager asks specific questions like “Was your burger cooked to the right temperature?” they’re likely to get quality responses from guests. If there is an issue, the guest feels as if they’re reporting directly to management. These kinds of actions help diners feel valued and can psychologically solidify a positive experience they’ve had just by talking about it. They also help you take an accounting of how well you’re doing.
Ultimately, loyal customers are the key ingredient to generating revenue, and it’s a great dining experience that keeps them coming back. By maintaining smooth restaurant operations, proactively responding to customer concerns, and seeking to personalize their dining experience, you’ll create a customer service policy that keeps your guests coming back for more.
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About the Author
Dylan Chadwick is a Content Marketing Specialist at QSR Automations. He graduated from Brigham Young University with an English degree and journalism focus and loves to write about technology. When left to his own devices, he enjoys loud music, adorable dogs and documentaries about the aforementioned.