In my previous article, I talked about how slow service can impact a restaurant’s bottom line (more than you think!). 51% of people surveyed by Consumer Reports (published August 2014) said slow service was their top gripe when it comes to eating out. So what can restaurants do to prevent annoyed customers, and increase the likelihood of them returning?
Make sure your staff is properly trained, and happy.
Restaurant diners want to be treated well, and restaurateurs want to keep guests returning. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how amazing your food is, or how beautiful your restaurant décor might be, if the overall customer experience doesn’t meet or exceed their expectations, there’s a good chance they won’t return. Customer experience touch points can cover different parts of a restaurant’s day-to-day operations, however, hiring and training the right staff is a big piece of the pie. Here are four tips for how your restaurant can stay on top of service:
- Be present Let’s face it, everyone has an off day every once in a while. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how stellar an employee is, or how well they’re trained…things happen. However, no restaurant owner, or restaurant GM, should assume they’re perfect. Yes, we’re all extremely busy EVERY DAY. But the difference between creating a positive customer experience, versus a negative one, can be as simple as being present and aware with what’s actually going on inside your four walls. Take a few minutes each week to listen to what people are saying, both inside the restaurant and online, about the service your restaurant provides. Get to know your customers. Find out what their needs are, and if you’re meeting them. If not, what can you do to improve? Briefly talk to them while they’re enjoying their meals, conduct surveys (you frequently see this advertised on the bottom of receipts), ask someone to be a secret diner, and pay attention to social media. Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews are helpful. Even better, set up your restaurant name as a Google Alert for more frequent chatter updates.
- Hire and train people smarter than you Take the time to hire the right people for the job initially, and adequately train your current employees. Consider letting go restaurant staff members that are holding you back. One Negative Nancy, or Corner Cutting Chris (I just made that up), can drag down your whole team. Create your “Dream Team.”
- Culture is King Great people attract great people. When developing your “Dream Team,” it’s critical to create an environment where everyone works together. Michael Jordan, as great as he was (Go Heels!), didn’t win the 1984 and 1992 Olympic games alone. Even though staff members work individually for tips, why can’t they also work together to help each other succeed? Taking a drink order, or filling the water glasses of a table nearby takes seconds and won’t diminish the level of service for their own tables. After all, there’s no “I” in team, remember?Ever heard the phrase “Monkey see, monkey do?” Employees follow the lead of their management team, so make sure you’re setting an example to follow. Listening is key. Give employees your full attention, keep them informed of restaurant goals and how you’re meeting them, and make all employees feel important by encouraging participation and paying attention to feedback and suggestions. Creating an atmosphere of support, cooperation, and positivity will benefit not only your employees, but your customers as well.
- Don’t hit the snooze button As a restaurant owner or manager, you’ve decided to listen to your customers, train your staff and develop a spirit of teamwork. Awesome! You can now go on a year-long vacation right? Wrong. When you plant seeds in your backyard you can’t expect them to grow on their own. You must water, fertilize, and pluck the weeds. Otherwise they may not develop the beautiful blooms or delicious vegetables you crave. Get my point? Be there, be aware and never be complacent. Even if you have the greatest GM, or staff, in the world, don’t take things for granted. This is your creation and ultimately, your responsibility. If you want to go sit on the beach somewhere, pray you have enough in your 401k plan, develop your exit strategy and get the hell out of dodge. A non-existent owner or boss does nothing for employees but confuse them.
Just because we might have had that one bad experience at a restaurant, doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t return – but we would hope our next experience would be different. Remember happy customers become loyal customers. Loyal customers not only come back, but also want to shout to the world how great your restaurant is, which ultimately means a typical $50 check might turn into a $100 check if you play your cards right. How does your restaurant stay on top of service? What are you finding successful? Was there anything that you thought would work but took a dramatic turn? Let’s discuss! Tweet, FB, or comment below!