You may serve the best food on the block, but if your restaurant doesn't match its dishes with plausible customer service, your customers may never come back.
That's why it's important to provide an outstanding dining experience from the second your customer's enter your restaurant, till the moment they leave. Keep reading to learn how to do just that, as we cover what to do pre, during, and post dining service.
Before the Meal
First, understand customer expectations
To provide excellent customer service, you must first understand what that looks like to your customer. By identifying their individual needs, you'll be able to cater your service to meet and exceed them. But make sure to pay attention to each customer, as one person's needs may vary from the next.
So, how can you do this? Research will be your best friend! Analyze your industry, the types of customers your restaurant attracts, and pay attention to their behavioral patterns. You can also leverage customer feedback by incorporating a suggestion box in your venue or conducting focus groups and surveys.
Greet them with passion
You only have one chance at making a first impression– make it a great one! When greeting your guests, do so with a smile and infectious energy that gets them excited about dining in at your restaurant.
The same goes for regulars, recognize that they're coming back for more! Show them you value their loyalty by remembering their name or striking a conversation over a topic you've previously chatted about. Small gestures like these will make your service go from good to great.
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Don't make your customers wait too long
No one likes a line, especially when they're hungry! Try to be as prompt as possible when it comes to seating, and provide your guests with accurate estimated seating times.
The same goes for food preparation– if there's a delay in the kitchen, keep your guests informed! The only thing that's worse than waiting for food or service, is being kept in the dark with how long the wait will be.
Equip your team with the right knowledge
Knowing what to do yourself is important, but sharing the knowledge with your team is even more critical to providing your customers with excellent service!
Host pre-shift meetings to share resources and experiences, and ensure your team is in constant communication to report on things that worked or did not work.
Avoid overbooking reservations
Overbooking reservations is as much a pain for the restaurant as it is for the customer. The restaurant upsets its customers, and the customers are left disappointed!
With that said, mistakes happen, and this is one of those mistakes that happen time and time again in the restaurant industry. If your restaurant encounters this obstacle, it's important to own it, acknowledge your mistake, apologize to the customers, and offer some form of reimbursement– because time is money!
The way you handle a problem like overbooking, can make or break your customer service rating.
Take orders with care
When you're taking your customers' orders, make sure you're doing so with attention and care. Here are some tips:
- Ask your customers if they have any allergies or food sensitivities
- Write everything down to avoid mistakes
- List all daily specials and offers
- Offer add-ons
During the meal
Deliver a great guest experience
The food might be on the plate and at their table, but your service doesn't stop there! Check-in on your guests every so often to ask how they are enjoying their meal, to top off their drinks, or offer any assistance they may need.
The key here is to check-in just the right amount of times! If you don't check-in at all, your guests will feel abandoned and neglected. On the other hand, if you approach them too much, you may come off as an unwanted guest.
Recognize birthdays and anniversaries
Are your customers dining in honor of a special occasion? Find out and do something to help them celebrate! Here are some examples of things to do:
- Bring the table a free dessert
- Sing the birthday song to the birthday girl or boy
- Offer a complimentary glass of champagne to ring in the anniversary celebration
Fix any problems immediately
Problems happen, especially in the fast-paced environment that is the restaurant industry! That's why it's important to be prepared and alert when problems arise.
Make sure your restaurant and its staff are well equipped to combat any sudden challenge they face– no matter how big or small. What does that look like? Having resources that are easily accessible for your staff, when they encounter an issue. You also want to ensure that your staff are thoroughly trained so that they're quick on their feet and ready for anything!
After the meal
Keep guests entertained
You've cleared the plates, but your customers are still sticking around– keep them entertained! Check-in on the foodies and see how they've enjoyed their food, your service and their overall dining experience.
Be sure to offer assistance if they need, and thank them for visiting the restaurant. Kindly escort them out of the restaurant if you'd like, and encourage them to come again! This is your last opportunity to leave a mark, and have them raving about the excellent service they experienced.
Use customer comment cards
Customer comment cards are a great way to gather primary research on your restaurant's customers. The cards encourage your customers to leave their feedback, provide a review, or offer their own recommendations for how the service can be improved. Not only will this make your customers feel heard but the feedback will be useful in ameliorating your restaurant's customer service.
Recommended Download: Free Restaurant Comment Card Template For Download
Engage with them online
Given how prominent technology is in our day-to-day lives, there's a pretty big chance you'll see, or read, about your customers' experience online.
Whether they snapped a shot on their Instagram feed or left a review on Google, it's important to engage with them, even when they've left your restaurant. Leave them a simple thanks, or re-share their Instagram story with a nice thought– a little truly goes a long way!
Care for your staff
When you think about your restaurant customer service and experience, you probably think about how your staff conducts themselves, how the food tastes, and the reception of the ambiance in your restaurant. But today, the customer experience begins long before guests are seated. Learn how you can improve your restaurant customer experience through online efforts.
The Keys to Improving Your Restaurant Customer Service
Providing Accurate Online Information
Accuracy is key in a world where 80% of consumers lose trust in a business if listing contact details or business name is inaccurate. Don't leave your potential customers frustrated with inaccurate information by providing the wrong restaurant address or an old phone number. And don't make the information difficult to find.
When a hungry consumer is searching for a place to eat, the essential information they want to know should be easy to discover whether they're performing a Google search, reading reviews on TripAdvisor, or poking around your website.
With technology available, people are more impatient now than ever before. Avoid disappointment by providing correct information in all necessary places online. And of course, make sure the information you're providing is accurate and up-to-date.
Claiming your business on these different search, review, and travel sites is also wise. It helps ensure you're in control of your online identity and allows you to interact with customers online.
Worrying about your online visibility, along with everything else you're taking care of as a business owner, may seem like a hassle. But, it doesn't need to be. There are other companies and people out there who are able to do the work for you. And SinglePlatform just happens to be one of them.
They're going to use these sites to find the information they need before going any further. And you should be present in all those places so they can find you.
Recommended Reading: [Guide] How to Add a Restaurant to Google Maps
Word-of-mouth and online marketing
Word-of-mouth is essential to growing your restaurant business. But, the catch is, in today's world word-of-mouth isn't always face-to-face. People take to online platforms, like Yelp and TripAdvisor, to voice their opinions on their restaurant experiences. And by expressing their thoughts this way, they share them with a much larger audience.
Although it's true that people trust the opinions of friends and family members, don't expect them to ignore the opinions of people they don't even know. According to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Clearly, you need to be cognisant of what people are saying. And you have to go further than just that. You need to respond accordingly to accept praise or address issues. 85% of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that responds to reviews. Do you want to risk losing business because you're ignoring your customers online?
It's a good idea to have a plan in place to read and respond to all reviews, whether they're positive or negative. Remember that there are multiple review platforms to monitor, so don't let any slip through the cracks.
Make it a point to check in on reviews often and respond in a timely fashion. Your customers will appreciate that you took the time to address their thoughts or concerns, and if need be, went the extra mile to provide a solution.
If you don't want to go to multiple sites to see your reviews, there are solutions that can help. Review aggregators will get all of your feedback from different sites into one location so you can ensure you're staying abreast of them all.
Technology To Help Deliver an Excellent Customer Experience
Evidently, providing an excellent customer service experience to your customers goes beyond a simple smile and wave. But, don't worry, there's plenty of restaurant tech that can help make this process easier and more efficient. Below are a few softwares and tools that can help!
Restaurant Employee Scheduling Software
It's up to your staff to provide excellent service to your restaurant's customers– make sure you're staffing them correctly. Restaurant staff scheduling software like 7shifts will help make sure you have enough hands on deck to cater all of your customers, while also keeping track of their time and attendance.
Restaurant Audience Management Software
Restaurant Audience Management Software is essential as it keeps tabs on customer information and preferences such as their favorite dishes and drinks, most ordered items, and more. Access to this information is vital to providing a unique and outstanding dining experience for each and every guest—on-premise and off.
Implementing a digital loyalty program is another useful tool to leave your customers more than satisfied after before, during and after their dining experience. Not only do they provide your customers with perks and benefits, but they help inform your restaurant when it's a customer's birthday, anniversary, or other milestone event. This tool is typically found via your POS, and supported by companies such as Toast and Lightspeed.
QR codes proliferated across the hospitality industry in the wake of the pandemic, and they're here to stay. For those who are looking to limit face-to-face interactions, offering the ability to scan a code for a digital menu provides a safer dining experience to your guests. You can quickly create dynamic QR codes for your restaurant with a service like QR Code Tiger.
Closing Thoughts: How to provide excellent customer service in a restaurant
The customer service you provide at your restaurant can make or break your success. Follow the resources listed above and equip your restaurant with the right technology, so your customers come running back for more!
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Hi! I'm Alex, 7shifts' former digital marketing specialist. I've been working in the restaurant-tech industry for over 4 years & am a foodie at heart. Stay connected with us on social media