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Party dinner

According to the National Restaurant Associationmore than one quarter of all American adults will dine out on Mother’s Day. Additionally, one out of every ten adult Americans will rely on takeout or delivery to make the holiday special.

In numbers, this represents over 80 million adults plus accompanying children. The spike in volume can represent a great revenue opportunity for food and beverage venues, but it also presents a risk as far as delivering a customer experience that’s up to par with the reputation of your establishment.

When not properly and strategically planned, the Mother’s Day volume spike can have a direct negative impact on your online reputation in review sites like YelpTripAdvisorYellowPagesGoogle (Google+ Local / Google Maps), and Foursquare.

(Check out: “Reputation and Review Management for Restaurateurs: Your Questions Answered”)

In some cases, profits generated by the spike may even dilute as new potential customers are dissuaded from visiting a business location due to negative customer experiences, or to management’s inability to effectively handle the high-demand holiday. In the same way that hotels suffer from pain points during high-occupancy periods, restaurants are subject to the same risks.

Thankfully, with a little planning, even the busiest venue can ensure superior customer experiences, with the potential of generating positive reviews and great peer-to-peer buzz.

First things first: analyze past performance

By carefully reviewing the historical reviews corresponding to the holiday in prior years, restaurant management will be able to identify specific performance issues, as perceived by their customers.

While the data is under review, it is important to parse service issues that can be directly attributed to increased volume from general concerns associated to quality that affect day-to-day operations, regardless of volume. In addition to assessing negative feedback associated with spikes, it is also important that you identify positive feedback that clearly points to products, experiences, and promotions that customers found to have added value to their holiday or special occasion visit.

Understanding both the negative and positive will provide you with points of reference to build upon, so you can take the necessary corrective. Common gaps in service include speed, quality and accuracy. Because customers can convey these concerns in endless ways, it is important to give someone with good operational and facility knowledge the data analysis task to ensure the feedback is a sound and accurate reflection of the state of affairs for the period in question.

Communication is key

Setting the stage by consistently communicating with customers can greatly reduce the chance of a negative review. For restaurants using online reservation systems like, say, OpenTable, it would be advisable to revise your auto-response to indicate the potential of high volume and emphasize the importance of timely arrival.

On location, meanwhile, it is important to have clear signage indicating waiting areas. Make sure you also have proactive staff ready to clearly and effectively communicate with those waiting to be seated.

Simplify your offering 

By reducing the number and types of dishes available, your restaurant can better manage kitchen production lines and food inventories. This also provides additional clarity for servers coming in from temp agencies, reducing the possibility of errors.

Another option is to feature a buffet. By having a self-serve readily available, you can increase the number of covers handled per hour by reducing wait time. Increased speed in service can tremendously boost your online reviews and rating scores. As an added benefit, this type of set-up increases the per-hour revenue.

Mother’s Day at the Restaurant: How to Avoid a Spike of Bad Reviews

Make it special for Mom

One of the smartest and most effective strategies a restaurateur can use during the holiday is to provide a value-added benefit for mom.  Your restaurant could include a free dessert for mothers who, say, agree to sign up for your E-mail list. There are other creative ways: the key is to spoil mothers and make them feel really special on the day.

Come up with a plan

Assign your best and most experienced table staff to the largest parties.  Have a prep meeting with all staff members and review all offerings and specials. Consider having small refreshments available for customers waiting to be seated.

Be ready to bite the bullet for the sake of a sound reputation

Even when you have planned for all manner of contingencies, bad experiences will happen. That’s inevitable. So, as you make decisions related to compensation, make your reputation a priority and provide remedies that will reduce the chance of a negative review, which could potentially haunt your business for a long time.

Rinse and repeat

Be quick to go back to the reviews associated with the most recent celebration-driven spike and take time to compare against prior reports as well as normal volume performance. Take notes and fine-tune your strategy for future spikes.

As your business prepares for this upcoming Mother’s Day, it is a good opportunity to find the right tools for tracking online reviews and for capturing the right metrics at the right time. Sign up for a free trial of ReviewTrackers, an online review monitoring and reputation management software platform designed to meet the needs of local businesses in the restaurant and food industry.

Crystal Shuller

Crystal is the Director of Customer Happiness for ReviewTrackers. She's known around the office for E-mails that make everyone smile, and she has a bag of tricks and tips to help businesses solve their problems and delight their customers.

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