Visiting a restaurant is like a mini-vacation; you’re waited on hand and foot, and you expect to have an enjoyable, stress-free experience.
If you want to delight guests and keep them coming back again and again, it’s important to pay attention to the little things that can make a big difference during this vacation. For example:
- Did you know smiling is contagious? When your servers smiles at guests, those guests will smile back. And that smile will lift their mood. It can also lengthen their lives, but that’s another story. (Psychology Today)
- Many diners rank the cleanliness of a restaurant as important as the taste and quality of food. (Technomic)
- 55% of people believe technology plays a pivotal role in the restaurant guest experience. One-third of diners think tech can speed up service (Industville).
Delighted customers become repeat customers who become evangelists of your restaurant brand. You can’t afford to not focus on the little things when it comes to making a big impact with guests.
Here are five clear ways to improve your restaurant guest experience:
1. Meet and exceed your guests’ expectations.
When guests make the decision to dine at your restaurant, their expectations are almost always set before their arrival. When they’re reading reviews, hearing recommendations from friends, or interacting with your website, they’re forming specific assumptions about the kind of experience they’re going to have.
While it’s rarely possible to track what specifically influenced a visit, you can make some predictions based on your restaurant service type. If you’re a quick service restaurant, for example, guests likely choose you for convenience, speed, and price. If you’re a casual restaurant, diners probably expect good value for their dollar, friendly service, and a comfortable atmosphere. At a fine dining restaurant, guests expect high quality food, professional service, a bigger bill. You get the idea.
Once you have a sense of your guests’ expectations, it’s your job to meet and exceed those expectations. Even if you have great food, ambiance, and service, failure to recognize and meet guests’ expectations can ruin their experience at your restaurant. Through proper staff training, you can empower your staff to feel a sense of responsibility for each and every guest’s happiness.
2. Treat your new guests like they’re regulars.
Think about the decision-making process guests go through before they arrive at your location. They have to make the decision to dine out. Then they have to decide the type of cuisine they are “in the mood for.” They likely have a surplus of options to pick from.
It takes a lot to get customers in the door. When they finally do arrive, it’s important to show them how much you appreciate the fact that they chose to dine at your restaurant by treating them like they’re already part of your restaurant family. Everyone has a role in this:
- Hosts and hostesses should greet guests when they walk through the front door with a smile and good eye contact, making an effort to be polite and efficient.
- Servers should be friendly and attentive. They should never congregate around the front desk or the POS terminal, and instead should anticipate guests’ needs.
- Managers should touch each table and ask about their experience, offering to help in any way.
Finally, give guests a reason (beyond your great food and service) to come back. Even something as small as a free appetizer or a small discount on their next meal can be enough to get them back through the door. If you really want to delight guests, personalize the offer based on what they ordered during their current meal.
3. Invite guests to join your loyalty program.
Speaking of giving guests a reason to come back, there’s no better vehicle for that than the restaurant loyalty program.
At the end of the meal, after they’ve enjoyed your great service, food, and atmosphere, encourage guests to join your restaurant’s loyalty program while that experience is still very fresh in their minds. If your restaurant has a customer rewards program integrated into the POS system, it only takes seconds for guests to opt in to the program while they are completing the payment process.
By joining your restaurant loyalty program, your guests will feel like VIPs at your restaurant, and will likely come back to cash in on deals and rewards.
4. Make the payment process as simple as possible.
A guest can have a wonderful guest experience, but it can all be ruined by a poor payments process. Here are just a few things that can go wrong:
- Having to wait too long for the check
- Seeing incorrect items on the check
- Not being able to split the bill or the items
Guests are ready to leave by the time they ask for the check. Streamlining the payment process can dramatically improve their guest experience.
Make it easy for guests to split the bill. Your restaurant should have a restaurant POS system in place that makes it very easy for servers to split checks by different cards, by seat number, or by individual item. 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.
Depending on your setup, you may also want to consider allowing tableside payments, so guests can pay, sign, tip, and even get digital receipts right from the table, minimizing the amount of times servers have to rush back and forth from their system and improving throughput.
5. Collect customer feedback.
Finally, show guests that you care about their experience by giving them a voice. There is no better time to collect customer feedback than while they’re actually in your restaurant, having just enjoyed a superb experience.
Some restaurants may choose to include a link to fill out a review on Yelp or Facebook on the bottom of their receipts. Others may choose to hand out a short guest survey with the bill, asking customers to rate their experience and leave any comments. Still others may opt for software that allows guests to share their experience during the payments process.
Whatever you decide to do, know that collecting customer feedback is the most valuable way to improve the restaurant guest experience, because these comments come straight from the people who are affected by your restaurant the most.