Using Customer Feedback to Improve Front of House Operations

By: Megan Wenzl

7 Minute Read

Mar 02, 2017

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front of house operations

According to Moz, online reviews are considered one of the top seven factors that influence where a business appears in in local search.

The front of the house at your restaurant is where your interactions take place with your customers. In other words, it’s where customers have their experience and where they will decide if they’re going to come back or not.

Restaurants should craft an enjoyable, unique experience, and that means making sure operations work well enough to exceed customer expectations. If you do not have that excellent customer service and enjoyable experience, your restaurant will not succeed, according to The Balance.

That’s why it’s critical for restaurants to manage customer feedback – such as online reviews – and use that feedback to improve front of house operations.But before you can use feedback to improve operations, here are some of the sources from where you can gather customer feedback.

There are various channels and platforms your customers utilize when sharing their feedback. Here are the main ones you should know

Where to Find Restaurant Feedback

Social Media

Customer engagement happens across all social media channels. Channels like Facebook and Twitter allow direct, easy access to post their opinion about your restaurant, especially after a negative experience.

Make sure you set notifications for when you recieve a review on Facebook or a mention on Twitter. This way, you'll be able to see (and respond to) reviews for your restaurant immediately.

Online Reviews

It can be more difficult for the customer to give restaurant feedback on review sites because they might need to login to the site, create an account, or just be more inclined to use social media sites.

Online reviews provide key insights into the customer experience, and should be an essential medium from which you gather customer feedback.

Because they're a little more detailed than social media messages, reviews tend to show trends and patterns. They provide an understanding of how customers think and feel about your company. Aside from Facebook, you can find reviews on sites like Yelp or Google.

Surveys

A survey is a useful way to collect information about your customers. You can send easily one if your POS has a CRM which records email addresses from your customers.

Since you need to make and distribute the survey yourself, make sure you know what you want to do with the results before you select the questions. What are your goals?

Do you need to measure loyalty? Are you trying to understand what customers think of your service? Make sure you have that concrete goal for the survey, otherwise you risk wasting your time and your guests' time.

Keep the survey as short as possible, but still aim to get all the answers you need. After all, would you take a 45 minute survey? Additionally, customers are more likely to finish the survey if it’s shorter, and if there is an incentive for finishing it. Think about offering up a gift card or a giveaway for all participants.

Areas to Improve in Your Front of House (and How to Improve Them)

Now that you know where to look for customer feedback, here are some ways you can use feedback to improve front of house operations - based on the customer experience - at the different areas of your restaurant that are focused on customer interaction.

The Main Dining Area

This is usually the area of a restaurant where customers will spend the majority of their time.

You should ask yourself operation questions such:

  • Is the service too slow?
  • Is there a particular waiter that is not performing well?
  • Is there a problem with the whole staff?
  • Is there a menu item that guests are dissatisfied with?
  • Is that menu item mentioned frequently in negative reviews?

You can get answers to these questions and questions you didn’t think to ask before with customer feedback management.

When you do find a review of your restaurant, listening to the complaints/comments and incorporating to your front of house operations and service will make all the difference. For example, after his experience at hutch, a restaurant in Chicago, Nathanael Belch gave the restaurant two stars on Google.

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He wrote that the service was the only problem of his experience – but it was a significant problem. Although the food was good, the service he received made his entire experience a negative one.

Because he left the review, the restaurant can work to improve operations. Although he was there during the third game of the World Series, other reviewers also comment on poor service from prior weeks. This clearly is an alert to owners that they need to beef up their front of house operations.

The Bar

The bar is a big deal. It is the place where guests go to wait for their table, and it is the area where guests come for a drink after a long day.

How are your bartenders doing at each of your restaurant locations? Just like the dining room, customer feedback can give you insights into the customer experience at the bar. This is a place where customers should feel welcomed – where they can order a drink in a reasonable amount of time and feel comfortable waiting for their table.

Is the bar stocked well? Do you quickly run out of a specific drink?

Since this may be the only part of the front of house that some customers interact in, taking pride in bar management and cleanliness is imperative.

The Restrooms

Although the restroom is a smaller area compared with the dining room and bar, it’s particularly important to pay attention to its details.

The restrooms should be clean, above all else, and should always be stocked. But it can be hard to manage this area, especially if you’re a restaurant with multiple locations.

No one enjoys talking about the bathroom, so make sure your guests don't have anything negative to say about them in the first place. If you do receive negative feedback, take immediate action and create a way to make the bathrooms more suitable for the customer.

The Entrance

This is going to be the first area your customers see at your physical location.

The entrance is most likely where a customer will be greeted a host or hostess, thus, it is a prime target for reviews. Online customer feedback will help you spot any issues at the entrance. Maybe it’s too difficult to find the host stand or the doors are constantly dirty. You could even unknowingly have a hostess who is rude to guests.

On the other hand, customer feedback can also assure you that your host team is performing at a high level.

When you're looking to improve the literal front of the house (i.e. your entrance), make sure it's congruent with the concept of your restaurant, or else risk a discrepancy between the entrance and the customers' experience.

Conclusion

Online reviews and social media are two essential channels from which to gather customer feedback. Other sources of customer feedback include surveys, emails, comment cards, and focus group discussions.

It’s important to use multiple sources for customer feedback, and companies should work with a technology partner to manage the unstructured feedback that comes from reviews and social media.

Customer feedback provides the opportunity for the team at your restaurant to identify issues early on, and improve operations, with the goal of creating a more engaging customer experience.

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