Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Golden Rules of Restaurant Hospitality

October 29, 2014

Despite the fact that any restaurant’s success hinges on its ability to attract and retain customers, many restaurant businesses lose sight of the basic rules of hospitality in favor of simply trying to keep the business afloat. While it’s always important to keep an eye on the bottom line, keeping your customers coming in and leaving happy is equally critical. No matter what state your restaurant’s business is in, here are a few “golden rules” of hospitality that should never be absent.  

Take the Craft of Restaurant Hospitality Seriously, Not Yourself

The first important thing to realize about hospitality is that it is an experience that starts the moment your customer sets foot in the door. This experience is largely determined by the mood that you and your staff set. How is it possible for a guest to have a relaxing, enjoyable experience if the staff is emanating a frazzled, semi-cranky, “hurry up and tell me what you want” attitude? Customers want to see that restaurant employees are knowledgeable about the dishes that are being served and that they take the quality and experience of that service seriously, but they also want to receive this service in an environment where people are relaxed and enjoying what they do. Bottom line, recognize that good hospitality can have more to do with friendly, open attitudes and excellent, upbeat service than the actual quality of the food itself.

Treat Every Restaurant Guest as a Family Friend and Every Dish as a Competition

The definition of hospitality includes receiving and treating guests or strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. This means giving them a warm welcome when they enter, engaging them in some form of personal conversation during their stay and ensuring that their experience is a positive one in every possible way. In other words, treat every customer as you would a dear family friend, taking measures to impress and delight them and to assure their happiness and comfort.

Furthermore, underscore your commitment to excellence by treating every dish that you create as if it were going to be entered into a competition. Ask how customers like their meals shortly after delivering them and be prepared to take any action necessary to make sure they are happy with their orders. Let every customer know that you have worked hard to make their experience with you special, and that every dish has been personally prepared with loving care. Customers who are made to feel special, welcomed and heard will return to your business again and again.

Cultivate Goodwill Between Your Restaurant Business and the Public at Large

Last but not least, cultivate an attitude of sharing and goodwill between your restaurant and the public at large. The can be as simple as freely sharing the recipe for that favorite dish, or as elaborate as letting the local community know that your business is interested in buying local produce and sponsoring local fundraisers, events and gatherings. Also, look for ways to tailor your offerings to better suit your core demographic. For example, if you have a lot of kids come into the restaurant, consider starting a “kids’ club” program, or take a survey of your most loyal patrons to see if there is any way you can make their experience with your restaurant even better.

The take home point here is that a restaurant can’t afford to neglect the basic rules of hospitality if it hopes to survive. Those basics are easily met by treating every customer as an honored guest, cultivating an attitude of openness and warmth and making a commitment to going above and beyond to ensure that your customers leave happy, satisfied and eager to return.

How to Appeal to the Typical American Wine Drinker

August 8, 2014

Despite the fact that the U.S. has become the single-largest market for wine (passing France last year), American wine drinkers aren’t easy to understand. In part, this is due to the fact that there really isn’t any such thing as the “typical” American wine drinker. We come from diverse backgrounds with very different motivations for drinking wine. How then, as the restaurant owner, do you know which is the best wine to offer on the menu?

One way is to consider how customers make their choices when it comes to wine. Constellation Brands, a global wine, spirits and beer producer and marketer put out an interesting survey that breaks Americans into six groups—each with a different motivator behind their choices in wine. The results are telling, in terms of how to appeal to the American wine populace.

American Wine Drinkers Driven by Price and Habit

According to the study, price is the top consideration for 21% of American wine drinkers. The belief in this group is that a person can get great wine without paying a lot of money for it. The only way they are going to try something new on your wine menu is if it’s within the same price range as their standby favorites. These folk like to buy cheap good wine and drink a lot of it. In fact, wine accounts for 38% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages. The other group who is unlikely to try anything new are the everyday loyals (20%) who drink wine as a regular part of their day to day routines. They know what they like and tend to stick to it. Appealing to these two groups is a matter of providing good, cost-effective wine and favorites they already know about.

Appealing to American Wine Enthusiasts and Image Seekers

Some Americans drink wine as a status symbol, others are genuine enthusiasts who love everything about the ritual and experience of wine. Both can be profitable groups for the enterprising restaurateur. For the image seekers (18%), the important thing is that the wine they are drinking makes them look good. They enjoy trendy labels and sweeter wines. The enthusiast group (12%) is more into food and wine pairings as well as new adventures in the wine tasting world. They tend toward bolder, more robust reds. Both groups appreciate knowing the back-story of the wine they drink and tend toward options on the classier “in-the-know” side of the menu.

Appealing to the American Wine Drinking Newbie and Those that Are Just Plain Overwhelmed

People’s reactions to the world of wine typically goes one of two ways—they’re either overwhelmed or intrigued. Those that are overwhelmed (19%) typically like to drink wine, but are intimidated by the complex array of options presented when trying to buy it. This group is going to get scared away from ordering wine if they don’t see something on your menu that they recognize. The group that is new to, and intrigued by, the world of wine (12%), has a different reaction. They still tend toward sweeter wines but are looking for authenticity and trying to learn about the beverages they are drinking. Like the enthusiasts, this group is going to be interested in the stories of the wine makers themselves, and are the segment most likely to buy organic and biodynamic wines.

Understanding these different groups of American wine drinkers helps the restaurateur make smart decisions about what to include on the wine list. Some restaurants will put a little something for everyone on the drink menu; others will cater to a specific type of wine drinker. What you choose for your menu is entirely dependent on who you’re trying to attract to your establishment.

3 Key Steps to Operational Excellence in the Restaurant

March 13, 2014

When you consider how much time you spend correcting or minimizing the repercussions of mistakes made in your restaurant, finding a way to guarantee that processes can be run correctly 100% of the time is appealing indeed. Just think what it would do for your business in terms of profitability, reduced cost and hassle, repeat business and customer delight if your patrons could expect to get the same high quality product or service every single time they visit.

The value of operational excellence, or providing the product or service right every time, cannot be underestimated. Same-store sales increase over businesses whose operational excellence is merely average. Even better, increases in operational excellence can often be achieved with little or no capital or ongoing investment, which makes striving for it a no-brainer. Here are three key steps you can employ in your restaurant to achieve the best standard of operational excellence possible.

Design for Quality in Your Restaurant Processes from the Start

The first and most important factor in improving operational excellence is to ensure that the products and services you create delight your customers. This may seem obvious, but all too often businesses start tweaking their procedures for efficiency without taking the time to ensure that those processes first meet customer requirements. Without ensuring that what you are offering is above and beyond a customer’s expectation, you risk too many “me-too” products which do nothing to set your brand apart from the crowd and appeal to your customer base. Once you’re sure you know how to delight your customers, designing quality into your processes is the next step.

The most significant difference between ordinary restaurants and high performers is that quality is designed into their processes from the get-go. These restaurants strive for implementing processes that create 100% success, every single time. For example, if you design a recipe and its instructions for excellence, the final product should always have the same great taste, regardless of who is in the back of the house.

Strive for the Perfect Process in Your Restaurant’s Procedures

Once you’ve designed your process for excellence, it’s time to run pilot tests and refine the procedures based on the results of that data. Test the procedure against multiple equipment configurations, a full range of employees’ and customers’ demands, to ensure that the process is as close to perfect as possible. Once you’ve got a process that can be replicated perfectly every time, document the steps in detail and develop your training materials.

Replicate and Refine the Restaurant Processes that Near Perfection

If your data shows that the process can be operated properly 100% of the time and is an improvement over an existing process, it’s time to mandate implementation throughout your organization. Standardization in the quality of products and services you offer is a critical factor to the overall success of your business. Effectiveness is always ahead of efficiency. Is it truly possible to make your processes so flawless that they can produce perfect products and services every time? Maybe not. But, if you focus on quality; carefully design your procedures so that they can be replicated as perfectly as possible, and have a goal of achieving outstanding operational excellence, you will get as close to perfect as possible.

How the New IRS Rules Regarding Group Gratuities Could Impact Restaurants

March 6, 2014

For years it has been common practice for restaurants to add a fixed gratuity to parties of five or more. As of the beginning of this year, however, how restaurants handle tips for large parties is going to have to change. The IRS came out with a new ruling this year that draws a more distinct division between what are considered tips and what are considered service charges. From here on out, it will no longer be legal to require a tip and still call it a tip. If it’s a mandatory fee, it is now called a service charge, which changes how restaurants can handle payouts for bonuses.

It used to be that cash tips generally went unreported, though both tips and wages are technically taxable. Those days are mostly gone now, what with credit cards and more stringent reporting and tracking requirements. This change in what constitutes service charges vs. tips comes on the heels of a larger effort by the IRS to crack down on tip reporting in general, though many feel that this added ruling isn’t going to turn up much in terms of unreported income.

What Restaurants Can Call Tips Versus What Can Be Called Service Charges 

In order for something to be considered a tip, it must be voluntary. The customer has to decide who gets the money. It must also be for an amount entirely set by the customer, not dictated by a company policy. If it is a mandatory fee such as a fixed gratuity, it is considered a service charge, not a tip, and therefore must be processed through payroll rather than being paid out to the server that day.

The Biggest Effects of the New IRS Ruling on Restaurant Operations

The biggest effect of the new IRS ruling is that it will complicate payroll accounting. Larger restaurants may already have the infrastructure to deal with the additional accounting, but smaller establishments may not. Employees who are used to cashing out their tips each day will also be affected, since they will now have to wait until payday to get their bonuses for the larger tables they served.

Some restaurants will deal with the additional accounting and maintain their fixed gratuity policy. Others will do away with a fixed gratuity entirely in favor of a gentle reminder encouraging patrons to tip by putting a “suggested amount” for the tip on the receipt instead.

How Restaurant Operators Should Handle the Policy Change

The best thing you can do to handle this new IRS ruling is to simply talk to your employees. Let them know about the details of the new rule and that it’s coming from the government, not you. Ask for their feedback about what might be the best way to handle gratuities for large parties, now that fixed gratuities are no longer allowed to be considered tips. The choices are to either keep letting servers take home large party tips that same night (but let them risk getting under-tipped), or to keep the fixed gratuity as a service charge that then doesn’t allow employees to take home the bonuses until their next paychecks. Talk over the options with your staff and see how they feel about both choices before making a decision.

How Engaging Your Workforce Boosts Your Sales

April 25, 2013

It is a well-known fact that your employees’ level of happiness with their jobs directly impacts the perception of your brand, your customer loyalty, and ultimately the amount of revenue you accrue. In fact, research has shown that as much as 70% of customers’ feelings about an establishment are directly related to their experience with your employees – with 68% of customers defecting due to negative interactions with employees and 41% of customers who stay specifically because of having had positive interactions with employees.

These numbers underscore how critical it is to maintain a workforce that is happy with their jobs.

Facilitating Workforce Happiness Means Nurturing Feelings of Confidence, Purpose, and Engagement

The factors which influence workforce happiness have to do with how confident they feel about your brand, whether or not they have a sense of purpose and responsibility, and how engaged they are in their jobs. There are several things you, as the workforce manager, can do to nurture these feelings.

The first question you need to ask is what motivation your staff has – day in and day out – to do the things that you have determined will build customer loyalty. This motivation could be as simple as pats on the back and recognition for a job well done. In fact, research has shown that emotional factors such as recognition for good work and trust in leadership are actually more influential on an employee’s level of engagement than even pay and benefits.

The bottom line is that you want your employees to feel positive about your business and to understand how valuable they are to your operation. Give them a reason to love you, and they will give your customers a reason to love you as well.

Providing Additional Motivation to Engage Your Workforce

Aside from verbal recognition for an employee’s capabilities, restaurants around the country are experimenting with different rewards and perks to keep staff engaged and add enjoyment to the workplace. For example, some restaurants allow staff to submit their favorite recipes as specialty items on the menu. Others give rewards such as bonuses, paid time off, or a free dinner for two to employees who outperform benchmarks.

Keeping an open line of communication is critical as well in terms of boosting morale and keeping your workforce focused. Making them feel like they have a stake in what you’re doing further strengthens their bond to your business.

Don’t Let the Economy Negatively Impact Your Employees’ Perception

The downturn in the economy has caused many restaurant operators to feel that providing motivation and employee rewards programs is an acceptable cost to cut. Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Your employees are your most valuable resource and it’s important to reassure them that your business is going in a positive direction and they have no need to fear losing of their jobs or pay. Their confidence in your business directly impacts your customer’s confidence in your business, and an engaged workforce outperforms one that is not engaged time and time again.

The lesson here is simple: Invest in your people, reward them for their loyalty, and reap the rewards of having a team of people championing your establishment.

Valuing the Customer

July 21, 2011

It should be second nature to restaurants, but the simple things are always worth repeating.  A restaurant needs to value their customers.


This goes beyond just offering excellent service, though that is a big part of it.  Customers want to know that the restaurant they are visiting is not going to take advantage of them on any point.


This may include the pricing and transparency, as well as how they are treated when things go wrong.  They want to know that their business is valuable to the restaurant.


One way for a restaurant to show that they value their customers is to make it easy to customize their experience.  Prix fixe menus, easily allowing ingredient substitutions, and offering real values in meal portions are just three ways to go about it.


It would also be wise to make accommodations for those customers with an allergy or a special dietary need.  Train the staff in how to properly address allergy concerns and how to prepare meals accordingly so that the restaurant becomes a safe and enjoyable environment for customers to enjoy their meal.


A restaurant can also be proactive in helping customers find the deals.  Showcasing which meals is a good value for the money may attract more frugal customers to the door.  Showing the price on an online menu can also allow customers to determine if this restaurant is for them or not.


And, of course, taking care of customers when things go wrong is key.  If a problem erupts, the restaurant staff should take the time to listen and fix the problem.  Addressing concerns in a timely and polite manner can go a long way in showing the customer respect.


The customer’s business is important to the restaurant, so why not train the restaurant staff to show it?  Make the dining experience a pleasant and comfortable place for customers . . . give them a reason to grant you their loyalty.


February 1, 2011

Recently The Cheesecake Factory was named as the nation’s most popular casual-dining chain, according to a survey of fast-casual restaurants.  Also on the list were Texas Roadhouse, Red Robin, The Olive Garden and PF Changs, proving that consumers are willing to pay a little more for a quality fast-casual dining experience.  The nation’s most popular fast-casual dining chains will benefit from more optimistic consumer feedback if they focus on the experience provided, convenience and food quality.

According to a recent MarketForce survey, consumers plan to eat out more in the coming months and they are driven to brands showcasing strong customer service elements.  As consumers plan to eat out more, the way to entice guests is to take care of the essential customer service elements.  Other elements that are strong considerations to consumers when choosing where to eat are cleanliness of establishment, friendliness of staff and value of the meal provided.  Overall, what consumers really want is a reasonably priced meal in a comfortable, friendly environment… sounds like home to me.  

Convenience also plays into dining decisions.  More consumers are having to balance work with family and are often too tired to cook at home.  Many also prefer to have a tasty meal in a pleasant environment where someone else does the dishes.  With this in mind, restaurants are offering value priced menu options and pleasant surroundings for their diners and it seems to be paying off.

Why Your Restaurant isn’t Just About Food

August 25, 2010

We recently read a new survey regarding restaurant customer service from Empathica.  It reminded us of a story about a girl who used to love going to restaurants, but was always annoyed when her mother wouldn’t let her have tuna fish.

The story was published in the New York Times a number of years ago. It discussed issues of child rearing. The girl in the story loved eating tuna fish in the restaurant, but her mother always refused to allow her to buy it because she would say “you can have tuna fish at home.”

“It Just Tastes Better at the Restaurant”

The woman who wrote the story mentioned that yes, she could have tuna fish at home. However, it wasn’t creamy and loaded down with mayonnaise like it was at the restaurant. Instead, it was dry and “good for you” at home.

The story was brought to up to illustrate the point that when you have kids out at a restaurant, you should allow them to indulge and not be so strict. The story equally points up another issue which is more important for American restaurateurs: It’s all about the experience.

It’s Not Just About The Food!

Even if all you run is a small hot dog stand in the middle of New York City, the experience of getting a hot dog at a New York City hot dog stand instead of cooking one at home is why people are willing to spend the money to buy from you. All the more so when you run a full service restaurant – it’s all about the experience and that’s the main reason people go out to eat.

Of course there are other factors that enter the picture, such as time constraints or lack of any desire to cook. But the primary issue for any restaurateur should be to make sure that their customers have an amazing experience at their restaurants.

Customer Satisfaction can Kill or Carry Your Business

However, a recent survey shows that 52% of Americans are unhappy with the customer service they are getting when they go out to eat. When we see numbers like this, it should scare the heck out of us.  Why? Because it means that the limited discretionary spending money people have is likely going into DVDs, internet entertainment, and frozen pizzas instead of into restaurants.

No one is immune. Horrible—or even moderately bad—customer service can effectively take four stars off of any five-star rating. So, do your utmost to make sure your guests are happy and having a good time. It’s not just a feel good moment. It’s a solid business decision as well.