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14 Oct 2015

6 Simple Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience at Your Restaurant

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Did you know that restaurant industry sales are expected to hit a record high of $709.2 billion this year? Or that the restaurant industry is the country’s second-largest private employer with over 14 million employees?

The National Restaurant Association estimates that diners have one million restaurants from which to choose when deciding where to eat. How is your restaurant going to stand out? How can you attract and retain loyal repeat customers?

1) Make the sights and sounds of your restaurant immaculate

As a restaurant manager you might not have the ability to change the décor of your dining room. You can, however, have total control over the placement of silverware, the fold of the napkin, and the fingerprint-and-lipstick-free wine glasses. Cleanliness can make or break your restaurant, and needs to be one of your priorities. Are chairs spotless? Are there mop strings on the floor? Can the hostess seat a couple with confidence that she won’t be embarrassed by an overlooked detail?

Read the online reviews for trendy restaurants. You’ll often find patrons complaining that while the food was good, the loud music or kitchen noise prohibited conversation. Be aware of the sound levels, the lighting and the temperatures in your dining room. In addition to delighting your customers’ tasting and smelling faculties, calibrate the environment for maximum sight, sound and touch comfort.

2) Personalize and custom-tailor attention to guests

Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington is a renowned 5 Star/5 Diamond destination. In a recent Forbes interview, he shared that his success is due to a complete focus on the customer. O’Connell strives for:

“A clear connection, a channel between the two of you. It’s the ability to focus so intently on a guest that the rest of the world ceases to exist…Believe me: Your guest will know immediately when you’ve succeeded.”

To create a personalized customer experience, you can:

  • Learn customers’ first and last names quickly and use them often.
  • Keep notes after each visit documenting their favorite wines, menu items, and seating locations.
  • Record any difficulties that arose so you can avoid them next time.

3) Hire the right staff

90% of all restaurant managers, and 80% of all restaurant owners, began their careers with entry-level positions. Hospitality professionals that are in it for the long career haul possess the following characteristics:

  • Sharp and clear communication skills
  • Confident, yet warm and friendly presence
  • Intuitive ability to read customers and anticipate needs
  • Strong organizational and time management skills
  • Eager to learn
  • Take direction and corrections to heart, without becoming defensive

4) Train the staff right

Wait staff must receive ongoing training to deepen their knowledge about food preparation, wine evaluation and proper serving techniques. An even more subtle skill to master is being 100% attentive to their tables, but never intrusive.

Patrick O’Connell believes that the all-important power of focus in hospitality takes place “one customer at a time, via one spectacularly-focused employee at a time.” Train and empower your staff to be focused and spectacular.

5) Make special occasions special

Birthdays, anniversaries, marriage proposals and honeymoons; each special event is a cause for going out and creating memories. The meals that people enjoy when celebrating a special occasion are more than just physical nourishment. They create memories that will last a lifetime, and your restaurant plays an integral part in creating these memorable experiences.

Whether it’s presenting the surprise champagne bucket, putting candles on dessert, or sending home a box of cookies from the pastry chef, intimate touches from you become woven into your customers’ special story.

6) Cater to all dietary restrictions gracefully and willingly

With all the different preferences out there – gluten-free, Paleo, vegan, and raw – today’s diners have a smorgasbord of special dietary requests. Take the time to ask about ingredient restrictions when taking the reservation. Alert the kitchen, notify the server and accommodate customer with grace and compassion, “without rushing or cutting corners, without doing anything that would make that guest feel any less than fully valued in our eyes.” (Patrick O’Connell)

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