Whether you’re a restaurant manager or the owner, your ultimate goal is to offer the best dining experience to your customers. You’re not just looking to see smiling and satisfied customer leaving your restaurant, you want those customers to come back for more. In other words, you want them to become regular customers. We all know that’s not an easy target to achieve. Especially with the cutthroat competition in the restaurant world. After all, that’s what every other restaurant in town is trying to have guests dine at their restaurant. So apart from offering a unique menu and an excellent service, how can you possibly achieve that?
Perhaps the best way to make a customer feel they just had the best dining experience in their life is by showing them that they matter; and that you actually care about them personally. They already know that they're spending their dollars at your establishment ... but they're paying for an experience. Look into your existing data and see if you can pinpoint any behaviors. Did you consistently sell out of a drink special that was offered once every two months? Consider adding it as a permanent item! Is there a couple that consistently comes in for dessert once a week? Offer a complimentary glass of wine every now and then. Little things like these will show that you notice their present, value their visit and appreciate their business. The more you learn about each customer the better you can customize their restaurant dining experience.
Guests come to your restaurant to enjoy a nice meal and have a good time; and if they don’t get that, it's likely that they won’t come back. Assuming that the food is impeccable, the service has to also be top notch. One disgruntled and lazy server, can send away a bunch of customers intent on never coming back. And all in the span of one evening. So make sure your staff, especially the ones who interact with the customers, are well trained and always willing to put the customer first.
One of the best ways to understand where your customer is coming from is to put yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine the experience from their point of view. Make sure that your front of house staff are able to gauge what types of customers they're serving. Some customers like to have the full treatment while others prefer to have the mean without much fussing over. Provide your staff with the best tools to provide a stellar restaurant dining experience. Guest experience flows from management down. If your serving staff aren't experts on the daily specials, it's on your management staff for not properly training them. They should know the menu inside and out, and geniunely care about providing good customer service. The service industry isn't for everyone, but those who are passionate about it, truly thrive.
And we don't mean an actual rockstar, but someone who excels at their job. Just like how every restaurant operation has an ecosystem that is different from other restaurants, you would usually want one person to keep that ecosystem running smoothly. The personal that makes sure your front-of-house runs smoothly is your FOH manager. This person needs to have the right skills to handle the huge responsibilities you entrust them with. The most important quality they should have? Passion. In some cases, passion can be more important than their experience. Leading a team of people is not an easy job. Your manager needs to create a relaxed atmosphere enough to ease the stress of the job for everyone while at the same time holding the people in the team accountable.
As an owner or a manager, you need to be very knowledgeable in your business. If your restaurant offers gourmet food, then you and your team must know the ins and outs of gourmet food. If you specialize in a single cuisine then you and everyone who works in the restaurant, including the chefs, their assistants, and the waiters, to know every little detail about the food they’re preparing/serving to the customer. If the customer asks a question about a dish or an item on the menu, the waiter should know what they are talking about and offer an educated answer, not resort to guesswork. Always assume that the customer knows more than you do and you need to keep up to date with all the new trends in your field of specialty. If the customer feels the place is full of hacks, they won’t come back.
If the customer expects a good meal at your restaurant, then a pleasant service and a nice ambiance would make them feel like the meal went better than they had anticipated. And this is what you strive for. Again, you're providing not just a meal, but a dining experience. Even if they don’t show it or express it, you can always tell a guest is having a really good experience by their body language. They’re eating, seem relaxed, and appear to be having a good time. The more you show them that each one of them matters to you, to the staff, and to the restaurant, the stronger the connection they’ll have with your business. This, of course, is how customer loyalty is created.
The customer experience is the Holy Grail in the restaurant business. It’s what sets you apart from the others. Knowing how to make each customer get a unique experience at your restaurant is the key to having a successful business. And the more personal that experience, the more loyal the customer.
“In the labor numbers, we were reporting about a $300 to $400 difference than what we were getting through Push!”
-Tara Hardie, ZZA Hospitality Group, 16 locations