There’s no denying that high-quality food plays a key role in helping restaurants cultivate a repeat clientele. However, top-notch restaurant customer service is an equally important factor in ensuring that customers return to your restaurant again and again. Proper restaurant customer service can also boost your bottom line: According to researchers at Harvard University, increasing customers’ repeat visits by 5% can boost profits by 25% to 125%. To keep customers coming back:
1. Hire judiciously. Prioritize personality over experience when making hiring decisions. You can always educate employees about the food and technical aspects of your business, but you can’t “teach” them the personality traits that contribute to a positive dining experience and compel customers to return to your restaurant again and again.
2. Train, train, and train some more. Achieving consistent restaurant customer service excellence necessitates training employees that patrons rank first—no matter what. Few things will prevent customers from coming back faster than being ignored while waiting to be seated, attempting to flag down a server, or trying to settle a check at the front counter.
In conducting restaurant customer service training, avoid instructing staff to treat patrons like family. Why? Some employees may adopt an excessively relaxed attitude that turns customers off. Instead, teach staff to treat customers as if they are your family. They will perform better and approach diners in a manner that generates true customer satisfaction.
3. Get ‘up close and personal.’ Unless you have critical business to handle behind the scenes, get out on the floor and stay there. Visit briefly with customers at each table. Introduce yourself to customers you haven’t seen before, and address those whom you know by name. Observe how employees interact with customers, too. If needed, privately share constructive criticism and suggestions for change—as soon as possible.
Following a more personal approach to your relationships with staff members also supports the caliber of restaurant customer service that generates repeat business. This includes everything from learning a bit about each one to interacting with them as you would with patrons—in other words, with the utmost respect. The better you treat your employees, the better they will treat customers.
4. Solicit and act on feedback. Patrons will see changes made in response to feedback as enhancements to restaurant customer service—and will reward you by patronizing your establishment more often. Drop off surveys at diners’ tables, giving respondents the option of anonymity so they’re comfortable about sharing criticisms. Ask about everything pertaining to restaurant customer service, from whether your business hours truly suit customers’ needs, to the appropriateness of portion sizes and which menu items you might add.
Post a sign at the front counter with an invitation to send comments via email; check the queue daily. Monitor sites like yelp.com and tripadvisor.com for comments. Respond immediately to any complaints you receive, and acknowledge all positive online and emailed comments whenever possible. Review sales reports from your POS systems or credit card transactions to identify previously regular customers whose visits seem less frequent or who haven’t patronized your restaurant in a while. Contact them to find out why and what you can do to entice them back.
Let your manager and crew serve as additional eyes and ears. Request that they share with you any restaurant customer service-related issues and feedback they have encountered.
More than ever given today’s competitive market, operators must work harder to consistently deliver the level of restaurant customer service that elicits loyalty among patrons. Carefully heeding the above four tips will make it easier for you to attain this goal.