Tuesday, June 14, 2016

6 of the Most Essential Elements for Excellent Customer Service

Diners look for a lot of different attributes in a restaurant, but one of the most universal characteristics that they demand is excellent service. Great service depends on a wide range of factors, from the sincerity of greeters to the familiarity of wait staff with the menu. Few things will convince customers never to return to a restaurant than bad service.

Even worse, in today’s social media-driven world, people are likely to share their bad experiences with their extended network, which could prevent people from trying the restaurant in the future. With review sites like Yelp, bad service can quickly tarnish a restaurant’s reputation.

For this reason, restaurant developers need to pay special attention to the service at their establishments and both institute and enforce policies that will make diners pleased with their experience. While far from a comprehensive list, the following points address some of the most fundamental aspects of excellent service:

Go above and beyond expectations.

restaurant bar
When people walk into a restaurant, they have certain expectations about how the staff will behave. Restaurants can make an excellent impression by going beyond these expectations and anticipating needs.

Holding the door and pulling out chairs is a necessity, especially in fine-dining establishments. An example of “going beyond” would be picking up a fallen sweater and folding it nicely before handing it back to the owner or offering to carry someone’s shopping bag to the door for them. The best restaurants anticipate customers’ needs and offer to meet them, from hailing a taxi to giving directions to a person’s next destination.

 Address issues as quickly as possible.

No matter the lengths to which people go to make service impeccable, issues will arise. When these matters present themselves, it is imperative that the restaurant developers or managers address them and correct the error.

Typically, the window between when a problem arises and when anger flares is very small. In addition, when customers must work their way through management chains, their anger only gets worse. Therefore, it is best if managers step in to address the problem at once. They should listen intently to the customer’s description of what went wrong, own the mistake, and propose a solution. Throughout the process, managers need to stay calm and monitor their body language, which can sometimes communicate something different than their words.

Learn to read customers.

One of the most important attributes of a good server is being able to read diners. Each customer is different, and people may be coming to the restaurant for a variety of reasons. By paying attention to context clues, servers can pick up on these signals and make the experience extra special.

People who are celebrating may feel uncomfortable in a lavish dining environment, so making some jokes may make them feel more at home. Individuals who like to try new foods may enjoy long conversations about where the ingredients originated and what types of wines will pair best with their entrees. Parties of business associates may want more privacy and less conversation about what to expect from a sous vide meat.

Keep communication open.

Once a customer is disappointed, it can become very difficult to win that person over again. The key is not to disappoint the customer in the first place. Although this may sound difficult, it is possible with the right communication.

If a diner waits an inordinate amount of time for an entrée, then that customer will likely and rightfully become upset. However, if the server takes the time to apologize and explain why the delay has occurred and then offers something to make up for the shortcoming, such as a complementary appetizer, then the disappointment can be avoided. Customers understand that accidents and delays happen, but they will be less forgiving if such delays are not communicated properly.

Ask about the dining experiences

While restaurant developers can certainly learn about how their establishments are doing with service by examining social media sites and noting what customers have said, a better approach is to ask for direct feedback. When angry customers have the chance to vent and obtain an apology for a negative experience, they may not write that negative Yelp review, or they may share that the manager was concerned about the issue, which reflects positively on the restaurant.

Some restaurants may choose to distribute comment cards, but a better approach is for the manager to circle around tables and verify that diners are having a positive experience. Also, the host can ask about diners’ experiences as they leave. This direct approach reinforces the fact that the restaurant really cares about the level of service it offers.

Appearance matters.

The environment that restaurants create is part of the service that they provide. For example, the servers should look presentable and smile at diners. The dining room and bathrooms should be spotlessly clean, and the music should be appropriate and not too loud. Server uniforms, decorations, and furnishings should all match the restaurant’s brand, and managers should address inconsistencies immediately. Further, managers need to also look the part. At virtually any restaurant setting, this position involves at least a dress shirt and tie.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

5 Key Pieces of Advice for Securing Restaurant Investments

coffee bar
When restaurant developers begin thinking about a new startup eatery, they have a number of financing options they can choose from. Because new restaurants are expensive endeavors, it’s not uncommon for restaurateurs to pursue multiple avenues of funding, such as traditional loans, small business loans, and even private investment.

The latter option is desirable for a number of reasons, including the fact that private investment often comes with business advice and has much less risk than traditional loans. At the same time, partnering with investors also means giving up some autonomy when it comes to the company. Before signing a deal, restaurant developers should ensure that the business relationship is a healthy one that will let both parties grow. Below are some important tips for securing an investment.

1. Prove your operational skills.

Investors will not hand over money to people who they don’t trust to manage it well. Before agreeing to a deal, investors will want to see a clear business plan and an outline of why the concept will succeed. The business plan should include a full outline of expected expenses and likely income for at least the first year of operation. While it’s impossible to predict these numbers with absolute precision, restaurateurs should be able to provide a realistic rationale for each estimate, as savvy investors will question these numbers.

Operational skills also include your tangible skills and background in the restaurant industry. In addition, many investors like to see restaurant developers with some experience in business administration or accounting, which provides some assurance that they understand how to operate a business successfully. Of course, pointing to past restaurant successes can help convince investors, but many restaurateurs are opening their first business. In this case, investors will want to see other experience in the industry, which could include anything from serving to cooking, as well as managerial experience. The key point is connecting the lessons you have learned in these settings to the new enterprise.

2. Find a business partner.

business partner
Investors are more likely to give money to an enterprise with two partners than a new business headed by a single individual. In a way, a partner provides a sort of insurance for the investor, especially if both individuals have different but complementary skill sets. However, restaurateurs should avoid finding a business partner simply to make investors happy. If you truly want to hold all responsibility for your business, you might come to resent a partner, which could cause the business to fail if tensions grow too high. A partner can help divide the workload, but you’ll only feel comfortable if you can truly trust him or her. Restaurant developers who have the tendency to micromanage may find themselves poring over everything their partner does, which actually creates more work and can result in burnout.

3. Show investors what the restaurant does.

One of the best ways to get investors interested in a product is to let them experience it. This is no less true with restaurants. If you’ve already worked out a concept with a head chef, then bring samples of the food to investors or hold a special event, whether a lunch, dinner, or happy hour, where the investors have the opportunity to see the food and discover for themselves what will make the restaurant stand out from the crowd. Giving investors a sample of food provides them with a personal connection to the product and if they are adequately impressed, then they will have the confidence they need to sign a deal. This brings up another important point—restaurant developers need to seek out investors who are familiar with, or at least interested in the food industry. Private investments in restaurants are increasing, but an investor who works primarily in tech or finance may be wary to support a new eatery.

4. Play the field.

piggy bank
Restaurant developers sometimes get stalled when they try to put all of their eggs in a single basket. Sometimes, finding one investor to cover all expenses is simply impossible, especially in particularly expensive East Coast markets like New York City and Washington, D.C. Rather than looking for a single investor, it may be possible to get smaller investments from a number of different people or organizations to obtain the capital necessary to launch the project. Investors often prefer to make smaller investments at first, because it’s less risky, so restaurant developers are more likely to get a “yes” when they ask for smaller amounts of money. When taking this approach, however, it’s important that restaurateurs make sure they do not give away too much equity. Keep track of your investments and consider how your promises to investors will impact the bottom line of the restaurant.

5. Add value for investors.

The most common deal that restaurant developers strike with investors is based on equity. Through this model, the investor owns a portion of the restaurant and claims a percentage of the profits. This model works for investors because they aren’t held responsible for interest payments when sales are slow. However, some restaurateurs end up creating deals that are more favorable for investors. One typical approach is to treat part of the investment like a loan with a fixed interest rate, which guarantees some form of payment even when sales are slow. However, restaurant developers need to make sure that they don’t back themselves into a corner and go bankrupt to pay this monthly bill.