In the restaurant industry (and in everyday life), it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. When guests visit your restaurant, they are looking for more than great food; they are also expecting to have an enjoyable, stress-free experience. The staff, the decor, and the atmosphere play a significant role in determining how guests feel about their experience when they leave. If you want to delight guests and keep them coming back time and time again, you have to pay attention to the little things that can have a major impact on the overall guest experience.
Here are six simple ways to drastically improve the guest experience at your restaurant.
Each employee is a representation of your brand. It's imperative that all employees receive proper training on the importance of customer care. Staff members should be trained to pay attention to little things like looking customers in the eye, to avoid referring to guests as “you guys,” and smiling and greeting guests as they arrive. These things may not seem like a big deal, but smiling and eye contact have been found to generate positive feelings like respect, trust, and support. Managers should pay close attention to how each staff member interacts with guests and make a point of reiterating certain customer care objectives during pre-shift meetings.
The best servers can recognize guest needs before they ask for them. Even during a rush, servers should learn to anticipate requests. The best service often goes unnoticed and, according to Matthew Greenberg, the former maitre'd at 2-star Michelin restaurant Melisse, "...anticipating your guests' needs is the difference between good service and great service (FSR Magazine)." Bringing extra napkins, an extra plate for sharing dishes, promptly refilling water glasses - all of these things require very little effort and only a general level of attentiveness, but they can vastly improve the guest experience. When your staff is attentive to guests' needs, guests can focus on the food and their company rather than on tracking down the server.
This might be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants overlook the importance of keeping everything clean. When the bathroom is dirty or fingerprints are left on the windows, it can send the wrong message to guests. If the restaurant doesn’t pay attention to aspects of their establishment's general cleanliness, what does that say to guests about the kitchen area and the staff? Make sure to pay attention to the little details as they can make a big difference in the way guests perceive the quality of food and experience. According to a study conducted by Technomic, many diners rank the cleanliness of a restaurant as important as the taste and quality of the food.
Waiting Area Experience
Guests who choose to wait for a table are dedicated to dining with you. Not only did they choose your restaurant above all the others in your area, but, by waiting, they are showing that they value your food and service. Show them that you appreciate their loyalty by finding little ways to make their wait more comfortable. It can also make the wait feel shorter. Seating should be available in the waiting area. Update guests on the status of their table. Consider having the hostess take drink orders while guests are waiting and provide complimentary water in the waiting area.
Timing is an important factor in creating an exceptional guest experience. Guests should be greeted by their server and be able to place drink orders within minutes of being seated. If one guest in a party orders a soup or salad, for example, make sure your server knows if they'd like it before or with their main course. If a party orders appetizers, hold their main courses so they have time to enjoy the pre-course dish. Make sure everyone in the party receives their main course at the same time.
Making it easy for guests to split the bill can eliminate a lot of the issues that typically arise during the payment process. Your restaurant should have system in place that makes it very easy for servers to split checks on different cards, by seat number, or by individual item. Guests are just plain tired of writing their name and order down on the back of the check. A payment system that makes it easy to split checks will not only improve the guest experience but also improve server efficiency and table turn times. Servers may even see higher tips when guests don't have to wait 15 minutes for the check to be split up at the end of the meal.
With everything on your plate, it's easy for little things like this to fall off the priority list. This whole industry, however, comes down to the guest experience. Delighted customers become repeat customers who become evangelists for your business. You can't afford to not focus on the little things when it comes to making a big impact with guests.