While things have gotten a bit better for restaurants since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants continuing to operate at this time are not without their fair share of obstacles. One of the most pressing is maintaining a robust customer base to keep attendance and orders as high as possible.
Jonathan Sears of SC believes that the most effective way to keep clients happy and interested in returning is to make investments into improving the customer experience. Here, he explores a few efficient ways restaurants can optimize the customer experience to grow a network of loyal, happy customers.
Start with Staff
Your staff are often the first thing that visitors notice when coming to your restaurant, and John Sears of SC commonly speaks to how their happiness can impact the overall atmosphere of the space. Restaurants looking to optimize their customer experience should start by ensuring that morale is high, and that staff are satisfied with leadership and access to opportunities. One of the most efficient ways to ensure this is by polling the staff to get a feel for how they see their work environment. Encouraging an environment that values transparency and honesty is key for getting feedback for how to best serve your teams. If capable employees want to move up to leadership opportunities or staff would like to discuss schedule flexibility, it is in your best interest to oblige within reason. Making investments in your staff by promoting within or providing access to certifications, trainings, or benefits, are all excellent ways to boost morale and improve the experience for customers as well.
Respectfully Handle Complaints and Concerns
Even the greatest restaurants can make mistakes, and how restaurants handle concerns and complaints levied against them is crucial to creating positive customer experiences for guests. The most efficient way to handle complaints, regardless of how small, are to have a plan in place to ensure that the customer still leaves satisfied. Jon recognizes that complaints can be tough for anyone who is proud of their business, but a system that prioritizes clarifying the problem, issuing a suitable apology, and working with the customer to resolve the issue efficiently are simple strategies for keeping even the toughest customers happy. Everyone makes mistakes. What defines a good restaurant is a willingness to rectify things and make necessary improvements for the sake of the guest experience.
Maintain Hygiene and Cleanliness Standards
Customers will rarely feel fully comfortable in restaurants that appear dingy or unkept. Promoting hygiene standards are essential for the health of customers and employees, but beyond this they fuel positive perceptions of your restaurant and contribute to the experience for guests. To properly maintain cleanliness standards, consider ensuring that spaces within your restaurant are frequently cleaned. This includes items such as tables, chairs, and the floors as well as the bar, dishware, and walls. A common complaint that restaurant goers have is that that the restroom is dirty. Consistency is key here, minutes of work maintaining cleanliness in your restaurant daily can save hours of manpower in the long run.
Focus on Being Attentive
For many of us, dining in at a restaurant is a luxury that we do not get to enjoy every day. Contributing to the experience by being attentive to your guests through great service is an excellent way to ensure that they will want to return. Some of this can be done by training your servers on how to anticipate requests and tend to their tables in a timely manner throughout their shifts. Managers and owners can also contribute by doing table touches to get feedback from guests and show that they are valued customers. Simple steps such as refilling drinks and asking about how the meal turned out take very little time, however, they go a long way towards creating a positive customer experience for your guests.
Customers often want to feel empowered to share their opinions on aspects of a restaurant such as the food, service, or atmosphere. Many successful restaurants do not only welcome feedback from their valued customers — they encourage it! Well thought out feedback can be valuable to any business as it clues administrators in on what they are doing great and what may need to change. Surveys find that a vast majority of unhappy customers do not leave a formal complaint and simply leave and never return. Encouraging guests to levy complaints, whether that be in person or through review sites such as Yelp or Facebook, gives guests the opportunity to speak their mind while making them much more likely to give the restaurant another try. People want to know that their feelings and opinions are welcome.