Being successful in the restaurant industry requires many things. However, one stands out: developing a customer-centric culture with systems in place that ensure controls, safety, and cleanliness.
This may sound simple enough, but it’s not.
The job of any restaurant, regardless of concept, is to exceed the customer’s expectations. The kitchen needs to put out a product that is tasty and consistently good. They need to be aware of what the customer likes and does not like and take measures to continually improve.
For example, a customer complaint should be taken as an opportunity to learn and the way the complaint is handled will either add a person to your customer base or will result in the loss of this customer and any others he or she might influence. The bottom line is that if your food isn’t good, and if your service doesn’t meet or exceed the expectations of the customer, you will fail.
Customer-Centric Restaurant Culture
The front of the house is where the customer spends his or her time. From the moment they are greeted until they leave your establishment, your staff has the opportunity to create a memorable experience by providing quality service. This requires constant vigilance, observation, and training from management.
Customers should be greeted with a smile, eye contact, and a verbal welcome. Hosts, servers, bartenders, cashiers, and even bussers should all make solid eye contact as the guest's experience is formed by these interactions.
Just think of some restaurants that you have visited and how you were greeted. Did the person out front make you feel genuinely welcomed and appreciated or were you treated like a number? Did your server warmly introduce themselves and welcome you while telling you about the specials or taking your beverage order? Did he or she make suggestions and tell you what they liked? Were they knowledgeable and helpful in their explanations? How about the busser you saw on the way out? Did he or she smile and thank you for coming? All of these subtle things add to the impression of the guest.
The service that your staff provides is important. It needs to be efficient, adequate and professional. But, as an industry expert pointed out, a vending machine provides service. You are in the hospitality business and need to focus on every point of customer contact to ensure that you are developing a culture that exceeds customers' expectations.
Systems-Based Restaurant Culture
Every restaurateur should also have systems in place. They need to run their business like a business by having controls that check things like food costs, liquor costs, inventories, labor hours and server productivity. They need to analyze what is selling and what isn’t. They need to know where they are making money and the margins that each item contribute to gross profits.
It is a fact that the operation that does not have controls is, without a doubt, the one that needs them most.
However, the systems that you have in place far exceed the business side of things. You need to have cleaning schedules for every single position, side work schedules, general maintenance schedules. Customers notice things like dirty windows and unkempt facilities, dust on the air vents, and dirt in the corners. Food safey in non-negotiable. Every restaurant needs cleaning schedules and systems that ensure things are being handled properly: first in first out, dated inventory, time and temperature checks, etc
All of this may seem daunting to the new restaurateur or to someone that hasn’t addressed it. However, if you start today by sitting back, thinking about your restaurant and how you can improve, and putting one new “system” in place, you will be on your way to creating a winning culture. Think of another one tomorrow and train the staff. Then check on them in a few days and retrain until it becomes part of your culture. This is the best way to ensure that that customer is more than “one and done!”
Future blog posts will delve into specific systems that restaurants find work for them. Share yours below!