Running Your Food Business: How to Go Above and Beyond Your Customer’s Expectations
When looking for ways to exceed customer expectations in your restaurant, the simple things are often overlooked. Going above and beyond your competition often starts with securing the foundations of your restaurant first, and then innovating in creative ways.
Before you can be great you have to be good and a good restaurant needs friendly staff. Staff should smile and engage in small talk when appropriate, always attentive to the customer’s energy. If your customers are in a hurry and the line is long, chatting is obviously not as appropriate. But a friendly smile and courteous welcome is always well received.
Teach your employees to be in tune to your customers. For instance, people of an older generation might be used to a slower, more friendly style of service. However, younger people might have kids at school, might be on a break from work or otherwise just be in a hurry and they need to move quickly through your store. Teach your employees to pay attention to the needs of their customers and always wait until the customer is finished speaking to ensure that they feel respected.
Another nice thing employees can do, when possible, is refrain from putting callers on hold in general, especially if they’re angry.
Your staff should always remain calm and know to keep their cool. The little bit of extra time you spend with an employee to train them on how to handle situations, the more it will pay off for your and your business in the end.
Another policy employees should be trained on is to always repeat customer requests back to them to ensure accuracy to let them know that you’re listening. This makes the customer feel at ease and also will do more to improve waste at your business as less mistakes will be made overall.
Ask for Feedback
Customers will be far more likely to offer constructive feedback if the lines of communication are open and the response time is fast. Customer inquiries should be responded to promptly, especially if they are submitted online because people are likely to lose interest after a time and not wait for a reply. Don’t be afraid of seeking customer feedback. It may seem a bit scary at first but online surveys, in-restaurant guest cards or quick polls on social media can really help you to see what you are doing right and wrong – quickly. Remember – the information is only as valuable as what you do with it.
Just don’t make it a chore. Bureaucracy is not a fun part of any dining experience. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re working for you so make their visit in worthwhile for them. Treat them with kindness and show them you are glad they chose your restaurant. Remember, freebies and competitions are always a winner too. Be responsive to customer ideas and their feedback as you will find it a very valuable source of information. Thank customers for their suggestions on Facebook or yelp, and throw in a little shout out for fun: “new, thanks to the legendary jonny24!”.
Make it Personal
Give customers options: the freedom to choose so as to optimize their experience in accord with their preferences. Forcing people to pay separate bills for drinks purchased at the bar, or refusing to allow them to pay at the table, receive receipts by text or split checks by table is tedious. Guests won’t feel confident trying new menu items or mixing and matching them without knowing what they taste like, so it’s best to allow them to sample wine and beer.
Online reservations and ordering (delivery and pickup) are essential, especially to attract new customers who may just be ordering food in an unknown area with their friends, for example. Small touches, such as free things on birthdays, and general gratitude and personal attention make each guest’s experience uniquely memorable.
The more variety that is regularly introduced to the menu, the more frequently guests are encouraged to visit. Spicing up your menu should be done at least seasonally or quarterly. Major changes may take longer, but small additions (e.g. a new milkshake flavor) or changes (e.g. cycling dozens of flavors) should be incorporated into your inventory orders. This having been said, it is essential not to rush new offerings.
Take your time, order the right ingredients and have a worker taste a new item before releasing it. Resist the urge to cut corners or compromise on quality in any way, whether with cheaper ingredients or rushed food. Keep the storefront presentation at a high quality and maintain the best look for your workers, sourcing neat uniforms by Cherokee Uniforms or another well-established outlet.
Never be afraid to check out your successful competitors too. See what they are doing and be on the lookout for ways to improve. Never forget to keep asking yourself the question: what do I want from a dining, takeaway or other food experience? Or better: what would make me comfortable and confident in inviting my friends or family to enjoy a new place I’ve discovered? Does your restaurant work for everyone? How might a new couple, a group of sports fans, a couple of business people, or someone from another country experience your place? When you can’t confidently answer one of these questions, you’ll know it’s time to consider a change.
Lily Martin is at business school and enjoys sharing her new-found knowledge and ideas with an online audience, especially if it will help spark an idea and improve business for a small independent business owner.