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.
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.
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.