It is absolutely impossible to operate a successful restaurant without excellent customer service. The best restaurants in the world have risen to the top of their industry by providing their customers with exceptional food, elegant and trendy environments and most importantly, incredible customer service.
It is a well-documented fact, that if a guest has a positive experience in a restaurant they will tell between 40% and 60% of the people they meet about that experience. Conversely, a guest who has a negative experience will tell almost 95% of the people they meet and will typically describe the event in more detail. There is no simple way to calculate exactly how much revenue is actually lost by bad, ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising, but it costs an average of 35% more money to attract new customers to a restaurant than it does to attract prior guests.
While the quality of the food and the cleanliness of the restaurant are both extremely important to guests, the level of service provided has the strongest influence on the guest’s perception on whether they have had a positive or negative experience.
Most people will return to a facility that provides mediocre food and great service, but will rarely return to a restaurant that provides mediocre service and great food.
The guest’s dining experience begins outside the restaurant with the appearance of the facility. A clean and well-lit parking lot with clear signage will signal a restauranteur who takes pride in their establishment.
Your customer’s experience continues at the front door with how the host or hostess welcomes them to the restaurant. Instead of forcing the guest to speak first, a welcoming and hospitable host will welcome your guests to the restaurant with a smile and pleasant greeting.
From there an attentive and charming server sustains the hospitable climate and begins to introduce the menu and the concept of the restaurant. A good server can provide suggestions, explain menu ingredients and ultimately influence their guest’s decisions.
Up-selling is a simple technique of selling additional items or increasing the value of items purchased. A good server can provide the guest with a unique dining experience and increase the check by 20 – 30%.
Once the order has been received, it’s time for the server to become a project manager. Timing the arrival of appetizers, drinks and meals can be an intense juggling act, but is essential to a good guest experience.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned and there can be delays and mistakes that will affect the guest’s meals or drinks. Ensuring that the guest is fully informed about the progress of their dinner is the best way to smooth any ‘wrinkles’ and prevent any escalation.
It is just as important to make a positive impact when the guest is on their way out of the restaurant as it was on the way in. Each team member should be trained to wish each guest a good night and to thank them for coming to the restaurant. It provides a very powerful perception of gratitude and welcome when 10 people wish you a good evening as you head for the door.
One of the more well-known, yet rarely practiced elements of exceptional guest service is team service. Team Service suggests that ‘the role of each person in a restaurant is to ensure that every guest has a fantastic experience.’ In practice, each server has a ‘section’ but is responsible to maintain the service level of the entire restaurant. Essentially instead of having one server, each table is serviced by the entire team.
The ultimate goal of any restaurant is to provide quality food in a creative environment, presented with sincerity through exceptional service. The more a customer service program ‘anticipates’ the needs of its guests, the better equipped it is to deliver an exceptional dining experience every time. By consistently providing exceptional customer service, a restaurant virtually assures its own success.
In an ever-changing and continuously-evolving industry, one constant remains. The better the level of service you provide to your guests, the more likely it is that they, and anyone they know, will continue to return.