Most restaurants today are focused on providing great customer service and the greatest value possible, right?
The “greatest value possible” is a nuanced thing based on what the customer is looking for.
It usually boils down to price, convenience, or quality. So, having the cheapest food might be an appealing prospect to some, but simply would not attract all types of customers.
But restaurants can still fail customers at times, even when they have the best of intentions. It can occur as result of a variety of situations: Being short-staffed, taking orders absentmindedly, forgetting a customer, and so on.
You have to first accept that accidents and mistakes will happen. Once you’ve established that, you have a few basics you can seek to avoid in general. The most important of which is below and relates heavily to the importance of branding and strategy. Those of us in the restaurant biz are often rogue folks who are ready to settle into an unconventional lifestyle in terms of hours and work. One thing you have to be sure about? What your brand is and how you will remain loyal to that commitment. It also makes life easier when you have guidelines to follow.
So, if you’re trying to develop a great reputation both online and off, then avoid the following!
Serving Dishes You Are Not Confident in? Your Customers Will Know.
The number one way to get a bad review is to serve food that just doesn’t measure up.
There’s a hilarious article on Bloomberg called The Best Worst Restaurant Reviews of the Past Decade. In it, they highlight some of the most cutting and hysterical reviews restaurants have ever gotten.
Overwhelmingly, the plea of the reviewer typically pertains to meals that were not prepared properly – mac ‘n’ cheese that was likened to “prison slop”, eggplant parmigiana that consisted of “crunchy eggplant Pringles bound with leathery straps of mozzarella”, potatoes that were “oily, sweaty, soft-skinned, as though cooked a while before and then reheated to order”, and so on.
It makes sense. Even if the service isn’t impeccable, a customer could still walk away satisfied with a restaurant that served a dish that dazzled their taste buds. (Not that you want to sacrifice one for the other, cmon now.) But their impressions of your restaurant will forever rest on that one meal they are served. They may not write about it if it was just mediocre, but you can expect to hear from them if their meal was bad or worse.
But their impressions of your restaurant will, more than likely, forever rest on that one meal they are served. Since, apart from ambiance and service, you can assume that they came to enjoy good food. So, they may not write about it if it was just mediocre, but you can expect to hear from them if their meal was bad or worse.
This might as well be a tip as to how to organize your menu as well.
If possible (and it is. Sit back and give it some real thought, be honest with yourself and your staff), it’s best to only include items you’re confident in. This can be a tricky balance, since you need to be profitable to sustain your business, and your best chefs may not always be available when you need them. But when and where possible, don’t serve halfhearted dishes.
Offer Exceptional Service? Good, That’s the Goal.
Food is a critical piece to satisfying customers. But the next biggest issues often has to do with service.
Imagine walking into a restaurant, being seated, waiting 30 minutes to place an order, only to be served the wrong dish when it finally arrives.
This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario. These types of scenes often play out in the real world. It could be a problem of staffing, of oversight or otherwise. But if it’s a variable you can control, you should consider what you can do to avoid these types of situations.
Here’s what you can focus on to ensure the best experience possible for your customers:
- Training. Training is essential to the success of your establishment. Your staff must be trained in what they need to do, how dishes are prepared, how to treat customers, and so on.
- Culture. Culture is created through leadership. Leadership needs to instill core values into team members. If your team members aren’t passionate about the same things you are, you may need to replace them with people who are.
- Consistency. There are ways to ensure the customer has a consistent experience with you every single time. And it is exactly why chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s are so successful. Use checklists or procedure documentation to ensure tasks are completed exactly as they are supposed to be every single time.
Despite your best efforts, you could still end up with a bad review. It isn’t so much about the review itself as it is about how you respond. Avoidance is the enemy when it comes to reviews. Respond as generously and genuinely as possible, and you’ll have a better chance at amending the problem.
If you can turn a negative experience into a positive one, you’ll have people raving about your restaurant and become loyal customers. Reviews are a marketing tool. Learn how to leverage them.