When you opened your restaurant you probably had an idea of what to do and what your customers wanted. Maybe you upgraded your booth seats or have some nice recessed lighting. But as a restaurant owner, it's important not to lose sight of the little, but basic things your customers expect from you.
Nobody and I mean nobody, likes to walk into a restaurant without someone greeting them. When customers walk into a restaurant, whether it is McDonald's or Nobu, they expect to be acknowledged.
Customers are not afraid to up and leave if they don't feel welcome in your business. This is when hiring a host is going to be pertinent to the success of your business.
The type of host you have at your business varies depending on your restaurant size and budget. Some restaurants specifically hire a host to greet customers, call names, and walk customers to their tables. For smaller-sized restaurants, it might be the responsibility of the wait staff to have this done. Whoever you ultimately have done this job, make sure they know this is their responsibility.
Trained Wait Staff
This might seem obvious but many restaurant owners employ family friends or their children. Or, they might make it an opportunity for first-time workers to have a summer job. It doesn't matter what experience your employees have, even if they've worked at a five-star steakhouse, they need to be trained for your restaurant. Every restaurant does things differently and has their own standards. All employees should be on the same page with this.
If you hire employees with no food service experience, take the time to properly train them. Not only will this save you time in the long run when you don't have to explain phone etiquette on a busy Friday night, but it helps your employees feel more confident.
Your environment should represent the brand image that you're trying to portray. However, you also can't lose sight of the fact that customers have a basic level of cleanliness that they require. If you have a small-scale pizza joint that has the "peanut shells on the floor" type vibe, that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep the place clean.
In addition to making sure the restaurant is clean, the decor is consistent with the food and restaurant's image, restaurant owners need to tell their staff it's okay to let guests linger. Wait staff should never hint that it is time for the guests to go.
Specifically, they should not rush the food to the table unless the customer requests it. They also should not start to clean nearby tables in an obvious manner or wait for customers to get out their money to pay the check. However, wait staff can say things like, "Feel free to stay as long as you like and let me know if you'll need some dessert or a drink refill."
Again, all of this goes back to having a properly trained wait staff who understands customer service.
Quality Food and Drink
Again, this might seem obvious but probably the most important service that a customer expects to receive when dining out is a good selection of delicious and well-presented food. Customers expect the food to be consistent with the image of the restaurant. Customers who are dining at a family restaurant expect sandwiches, traditional dinners, and moderate prices. At a more elegant restaurant, prices can be higher but food needs to be more of the gourmet variety.
Customers also expect a variety of food and drink to choose from. While some elegant restaurants can get away with having a menu with only 10 items, if you're a moderately sized restaurant, try to avoid this. However, don't take this to the extreme and offer every single type of food you can think of.
Hiring a great kitchen staff will help your restaurant go a long away. They will understand basic kitchen rules, such as cooking and service food properly. They'll also be less likely to leave hairs or other items that should never be in food.
Serving your customers in a timely manner is going to prevent an array of issues. There is nothing worse than heading to your favorite restaurant on a Friday, only to have to wait 30 minutes for a table, and another 50 to get your food. While there can be some unforeseen circumstances that can cause a delay in the kitchen, try keeping this to a minimum. You can do this by having your kitchen and wait staff prepared before a rush and training them to know what to do in times like that.
Speaking on a personal note (and from someone who worked in food service as a teen), if a customer's food is taking a long time, communicate this with them. Don't walk by their table without acknowledging them or pretending there's nothing going on. Take the few extra seconds to politely let them know that the food should be out shortly and you haven't forgotten about them.
While this isn't applicable to your physical location, your customers need a place to access your contact information. It's highly recommended that you have a website or Yelp page for your business. This should have your contact information, business hours, and address. Not only will this make it easier for customers to get ahold of you, but it shows you want to be readily available for them.
Also, if you give customers the option to place an order for pick up and delivery, it's even more important to have a website with contact information. Let's be honest, nobody is using phone books anymore to get business information. Don't miss out on potential customers by forgetting your online presence.
Customers love to feel rewarded for continuously spending money at your restaurant. The best way to do this is to set up a loyalty program. These are an easy way to incentivize your loyal customers to keep coming back and even spread the word about your business. There are many free or inexpensive loyalty programs for you to choose from.
Look for one that gives you the flexibility to tailor your reward program to fit your business. You'll want the option to run promotions and special reward events. Also, find a program that is easy to set up, use, and upgrade. While having those iPads that come a loyalty program can be fun, consider signing up for one that doesn't require hardware. Not only will this save you time and money, but it means customers have access to their loyalty program from their phones.
Remember This Important Rule
Your best bet to keeping customers happy is just listening to what they have to say. Ultimately they'll tell you what they like and don't like. A good restaurant owner is open to feedback and recognizes when things need to change. Don't fall victim to thinking you're right about everything and your customers should be happy with what you already have.