RESTAURANT INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

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We’ve spoken about customer service efforts outside of your actual restaurant, but let’s discuss the strides you should be taking when a customer comes in to dine with you. You’ve made an awesome impression online, done a great job of responding to online reviews, and have an appetizing menu that draws diners in. Now, you have to make the experience match up to the expectations.

According to New Voice Media, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service! Don’t let business opportunity slip through your fingers because of insufficient customer care.

We discuss 3 restaurant customer service tips to make a positive impression on your guests.

Be Quick to Greet

No one wants to wait. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for a train or a subway, are on line at the supermarket, or are anticipating the season premiere of your favorite show - waiting isn’t fun! And guests don’t like waiting at your restaurant either. I’m not talking about the wait time for a vacant table on a busy Friday night, that’s bound to happen and is understandable. I’m talking about the time it takes for an employee to greet a new customer once they walk in the door.

When a guest enters your door, you should be there to greet them and let them know of next steps, whether it be to follow a hostess to their seat or take a number in line for a free table.

Your greeting is quite literally the first in-person impression someone will have of your restaurant. It comes before the food and drinks, the entertainment, and the rest of the service. And it matters for your profits.

After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.

I once entered a restaurant that wasn’t at all crowded. I stood at the hostess table waiting for someone to greet or seat me, and well, nothing. A few minutes passed by and I watched servers walk back and forth to tables, bartenders look at me and continue on their way, and other staff meander in the rear of the restaurant with no intentions of making a move. After those minutes passed by and I wasn’t greeted, I left. They lost a customer just because they weren’t forthcoming or friendly.

Your staff should be trained to greet customers whether it is their main job function or not. In that situation, the unbusy bartender could have said hello and let me know that someone would help me in a moment.

Depending on your restaurant concept, you may have a host or hostess that is always available to welcome new customers. If not, you should still have a staff that is friendly and attentive at all times. Don’t let a single guest go unnoticed or else you could lose what could have been a valuable loyal customer.

Be Attentive, Not Annoying

There’s a fine line that exists between being diligent and overbearing. People are dining out to enjoy great food and the company of each other. Your waitstaff shouldn’t become a part of the party, but instead an observant asset that is aware of guests’ needs.

We’ve all had experiences with both scenarios. On one hand, you have an overly-involved waiter who checks up on you every few minutes, asks if there is anything else you need, and hands you the check as soon as you’ve dropped your fork. Their helicopter ways are so intrusive that you feel like you should just invite them to join the dinner.

Then, you experience a server that makes you question whether they were in the flesh or just a figment of your imagination. You saw them briefly once you sat down, but they went off in the distance to cater to other guests. So much time passes that you have to call them over yourself in order to place your order. They bring you your food and disappear before you can ask for extra napkins. By the end of the meal, you’re considering asking the restaurant owner himself for the bill.

Both situations are not ideal and ones you should strive to avoid in your own restaurant. Being a restaurant waiter is all about timing (and of course, some patience). Know your cues and don’t overstep your boundaries.

Make a Lasting Impression Through the End

Your customer gave you their credit card to pay for the meal and are getting ready to leave. This doesn’t mean you can forget about the customer service you provide. Your impression lasts until a diner walks out the door (and of course, extends beyond that as well).

Just as you greeted them on the way in, you should send guests off with the same effort. Let them know you were happy they dined with you and are anticipating their return.

Offer up something extra, like after dinner mints, toothpicks, or an espresso to finish the dinner. Even up the door for them if possible. Every little detail counts when it comes to customer service. And believe me, they’ll notice.

In Closing

Lauren Freedman, President of E-tailing Group, was quoted saying, “Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”

Don’t miss out on more customers and higher profits because your restaurant failed to provide a positive customer experience.

American Express studies reveal that 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.  Putting in the extra effort to be attentive and accommodating will go a long way.

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