In a world with endless options, businesses and restaurants face the commodity trap. In other words, it is getting harder to be different and stand out among other businesses in the same industry.
Uniqueness is a major factor in why loyal diners come back to the same restaurant despite the options out there.
The good news is there is a way any restaurant can stand out today and it can cost little to nothing.
Where automation and self-service are increasing, genuine customer service becomes a rare commodity. Restaurants may overlook investing in customer service because it’s hard to measure the results but giving an unforgettable customer experience will set restaurants apart.
Still wondering if it’s worth it to invest time and energy in customer service? Here are some noteworthy statistics:
- Businesses that focus on customer experience drive revenue 4-8% higher than their competitors
- 81% of businesses view excellent customer service as a way to stand out
- 84% of businesses that improve their customer service see an increase in revenue
Ready to be a superhero in restaurant service? Read on for an overview of restaurant etiquette basics and tips for delivering customer service with technology and in the online world.
Restaurant customer service for dine-in
Dine-in is an opportunity for restaurants to shine through customer service. The best service is given through the mindset of giving the customer assistance and being their advisor.
Diners won’t know what to expect in a new restaurant and don’t know what to order. Approaching customer service through the lens of advising and creating an experience, may help.
Greet customers and make them feel welcomed
Making a great first impression counts. This is a very crucial step as the moment a guest walks in, they instantly come up with an impression.
As soon as a guest walks in, acknowledge them. Make eye contact and greet them, using titles like sir or ma’am. There’s nothing worse than making the guest feel unimportant the minute they walk in. Even if in the middle of something, a restaurant worker should at least give an acknowledgment like “I’ll be with you in a moment!”
Have smooth etiquette
The first impression is only the beginning of the work. After creating a warm first impression, the momentum should continue.
Restaurant servers should remember to check on their table periodically to make sure drinks are refilled and plates are cleared.
When taking orders, repeat the order back to the guest and ask any questions to make sure the order is correct.
When bringing out the plates, it’s best to remember who ordered what instead of calling out “shrimp po’ boy!” Since it can be hard to remember, having a system in place can help.
Finally, bring the check in a timely manner while thanking the guests and never create the impression of rushing them out.
Serve as a guide and advisor
While some new diners may know what they want, some will have a harder time navigating a new menu. They may be in the mood for a burger but can’t decide among the 12 options.
This is where the restaurant server steps in the role of a guide and advisor. The key is to ask questions. If the customer can’t decide, ask questions that will help eliminate options and narrow down their choice. Customers may already have a bunch of questions so knowing the menu fluently will help serve the customer.
In many cases, customers of any business are indecisive for the most part and are open to suggestions. Serve guests as their guide and they will be thankful for it.
How to talk to customers
Set tonal guidelines
Tonality is extremely important when talking with customers but since it’s on a spectrum, it can vary.
For example, “is that all?” and “is there anything else I can help you with?” both have the same meaning but are completely different. The former can make the server sound annoyed with the customer’s demand while the ladder sounds more genuine.
Overall, the tone should be professional yet friendly at the same time. To dial into this “sweet spot” restaurant owners/managers should come up with a standard tone of voice and train employees to speak within this space.
Focus on what you can do
Customers would rather hear about what you will do rather than what you can’t do. Even if a customer can’t be immediately helped, your answer should be an attempt to fix the problem.
- “Great question. Let me go find out for you” instead of “I don’t know.”
- “I’m sorry, we just ran out but I recommend these great alternatives” instead of “We’re out of that.”
- “I’ll be right with you” instead of “I’m busy right now.”
Restaurant customer service online
Customer service online is just as important as dine-in customer service. With endless options available at the fingertips, speedy and convenient online service could make or break dining plans at your restaurant.
With the flood of messages coming in, chatbots have been helping by taking on the load. When customers message restaurants on their Facebook page, a delayed response that’s even 2 minutes short, could cost business. Set up chatbots on social media and the website to answer generic questions like “what time are you open on Saturday?” Even if customers are talking to a bot, if answered promptly and accurately, you win restaurant customer service points.
For restaurants that are heavy on reservations, online reservation software or systems can help automate the process. Eliminating long wait times and missed phone calls can make it more convenient for customers to make reservations.
Google and Yelp reviews
Free online listings are double-edged swords. New customers can discover you, but you’re also open to receiving negative comments for the world to see. What can be done about complaints and 1-star reviews?
Unfortunately, it can be close to impossible to get negative feedback removed unless it violates policy. Fortunately, it provides an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service and care. Make sure to reply to negative reviews ASAP and apologize even if the customer is being unreasonable. After apologizing, provide a phone number or email to escalate the complaint. Always keep it professional and never call out what the customer did wrong. Then hope the customer changes or deletes the comment, although this is not a guarantee.
Update Google listing
Update your restaurant’s Google listing to make sure it’s providing information that customers need. Give customers a better experience by ensuring that the phone number, email, and website are all correct. Also (more recently due to Covid-19) make sure your restaurant’s Google listing accurately showcases takeout, delivery, and dine-in options.
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