Recently Terri and I planned a mini vacation just 10 miles from our own home in Boca Raton but closer to the ocean. We rented a cottage of 350 square feet one block from the water and within one mile of an over-flowing supply of restaurants we had never tried before. Perfect location! The little cottage was fine except for water temperature problems in the shower. I hadn’t taken a cold shower since I was stationed in Ft. Polk Louisiana while in the Army.
We tried a Mexican restaurant and a NY style deli both of which I had tried before but were new to Terri, both were great. On our second day we tried to find a restaurant that came highly recommended and when we got there it looked like it was closed but it was later learned that it was open. Poor signage and street presence on a very busy street with limited parking. Next time we’ll walk.
For dinner we wanted Italian food and we found a large Italian restaurant on a major road with plenty of parking that has been open for at least twenty years so we decided to try it. As we entered we were greeted by the hostess and the manager who immediately said something nice to Terri and extended a hand shake as if we were long lost friends. As he showed us to our table the conversation continued. By the time we were seated we felt as if we had been there many times before. Our waitress was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and the history of the restaurant.
Why am I telling you this? One question we always ask each other or friends we dine with is “Would you come back?” If you read my post on Facebook, Empty Plates” you know that I judge all Italian restaurants by one dish, chicken parmigiana. Would I go back to this restaurant, yes. Not so much for the food but because we were made to feel welcome and treated well.
What do you need to do to make your customers feel this way? Delivering exceptional customer service is crucial for the success of a restaurant. Here are some best practices to consider:
- Training and Empowerment: Train your staff thoroughly on the menu, policies, and service standards. Empower them to make decisions that benefit the customer without needing constant approval.
- Friendly and Attentive Staff: Hire staff with excellent communication skills and a positive attitude. Ensure they greet guests warmly, actively listen to their needs, and respond promptly.
- Knowledge of Menu: Staff should be knowledgeable about the menu items, ingredients, preparation methods, and any potential allergens. This enables them to answer questions and make recommendations.
- Prompt Seating: Avoid long waits by having an efficient system for seating guests. If there is a waitlist, provide accurate estimated wait times.
- Cleanliness: Maintain a clean and well-organized environment. Clean tables, utensils, and restrooms regularly. A clean setting enhances the overall dining experience.
- Timely Service: Strive for consistency in delivering food and beverages in a timely manner. Long delays can lead to dissatisfaction.
- Customization: Accommodate special requests and dietary restrictions whenever possible. This demonstrates flexibility and a willingness to cater to individual needs.
- Anticipate Needs: Train staff to anticipate customer needs. Refill drinks, offer additional napkins, and provide condiments before guests need to ask.
- Problem Resolution: Address issues promptly and professionally. If a customer has a complaint, listen attentively, apologize, and find a solution that makes them feel valued.
- Personalization: Encourage staff to use the customer’s name and remember preferences when possible. This personal touch enhances the dining experience.
- Consistent Quality: Maintain consistent quality in food preparation. Irregularities can lead to disappointment among customers who expect the same experience every visit.
- Feedback Loop: Encourage customers to provide feedback, both positive and negative. This helps identify areas for improvement and shows that you value their opinions.
- Table Check-ins: Train servers to check on customers after they’ve received their meals. This gives them an opportunity to address any issues before the meal is over.
- Upselling Skillfully: While upselling can boost revenue, do it thoughtfully. Suggest additional items that complement the customer’s order rather than pushing unnecessary products.
- Body Language and Tone: Staff should maintain friendly body language and tone of voice. A smile and pleasant demeanor can significantly impact the customer’s perception.
- Online Presence: Extend great customer service to online platforms. Respond promptly to online reviews and messages, addressing concerns and thanking customers for positive feedback.
- Special Occasions: Recognize special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Offering a small gesture like a dessert can create a memorable experience.
- Staff Coordination: Ensure effective communication and coordination among staff members. This prevents confusion and delays in service.
- Farewell: Bid customers farewell warmly, inviting them to return. A positive parting note can leave a lasting impression.
- Continual Training: Regularly provide refresher training to staff and encourage them to share their own customer service experiences and insight
Remember, exceptional customer service creates loyal patrons who not only return but also spread positive word-of-mouth, contributing to the restaurant’s success.
Visit us at two upcoming shows in Florida. September 18-20 at The Americas Food and Beverage Show in Miami Booth #1215