Restaurant Customer Service and Loyalty

May 25, 2018

Earlier this month, Nancy Friedman wrote a wonderful piece for RunningRestaurants.com titled “Excellent Restaurant Customer Service Drives Loyalty”. This serves as a perfect end-cap for our recent coverage of the “Cycle of Service in Restaurants”.

Friedman’s article covers the importance of fixing bad experiences. As she mentions, customers will tell many more people about a bad experience than they will about a good one: “Word-of-mouth and social media postings, good and bad, have helped and ruined many a restaurant.” Restaurants are perhaps uniquely more vulnerable to these pressures than other businesses, too—after all, there’s hardly a more universal experience than eating out.

As Friedman explains in her first tip, “The easiest customer service fix is offering a free drink when the smallest thing goes wrong and a complimentary dinner when things go terribly wrong.” While no business wants to get in the habit of sacrificing profit, genuine problems should always be addressed, and it’s not worth it to force the diner to pay for something at the expense of him never returning. Fixing an issue—whether it’s really the fault of the restaurant or not—can impress upon the diner how much you care. That level of service doesn’t go unnoticed, and it’s the kind of thing that will ensure both loyalty and good word-of-mouth.

But knowing how to handle difficult situations, including when it’s appropriate to compensate the diner, requires a fair amount of training. Friedman explains that several upscale restaurants actually hold training meeting daily, just to keep everyone sharp. All of this hard work goes a long way to ensuring your restaurant has a staff that’s able to handle just about anything. That reputation will take you far.

This article also covers a list of additional tips. Here are our three favorites:

“When a customer walks into a restaurant, they should be greeted immediately.” This is critical; a first impression is hard to overcome if it’s negative, and it truly does set the tone for the rest of the experience. You don’t want diners to come in just to stand around confused as to why no one has acknowledged their arrival.
“Every waiter should always introduce themselves by name.” Personalizing the experience is important in any industry, not just restaurants; next time you find yourself in a retail or sales environment, take note of how the really successful employees always make sure to introduce themselves. This gesture goes a long way to making the experience feel more warm and genuine.
“Be attentive.” This goes to the idea of how important it is to let the guest know you care about his or her patronage. That means making a little light conversation before ordering, checking in after the food has been delivered, and anticipating the guests’ needs even before they say something, including refilling drinks or clearing dishes.

To summarize, guests should be greeted right away to make them feel welcome; the server should introduce him or herself by name to personalize the experience and humanize the interaction; and finally, the server should make sure to pay close attention to the guests to impress upon them how much you appreciate that they chose your establishment. These three concepts will do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to conveying to your guests that you care.

Combine those items with the right training and the conviction to always set a situation right, and your restaurant will be well on its way to establishing a loyal customer base, with both repeat sales and positive referrals.

Designing the right workflow, establishing the best practices for your employees, and keeping everyone properly trained—and tested—requires a lot of work. At The Brandt Group, we’re ready to help you at every level to deliver the best experience to your guests and to keep your staff on their toes. Reach out to us today to learn more about our many services.

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