Restaurant Customer Service: How to Provide a Standout Experience

Great restaurant customer service reminds us of this example:

In 2012, a brand started putting your name on your coffee to make you feel important and part of their community. It offered free WiFi in locations that create a shared space for customers to hang out. And further, it provided a free birthday drink to its card patrons every year.

Yes, we’re talking about Starbucks.

But why is Starbucks putting in so much effort to build a customer experience that is valuable even more than their actual product?

It’s because today delivering outstanding restaurant customer service is a must-have.

The restaurant industry is becoming more crowded and customers are overwhelmed with options.

Restaurant competition

When you invest in customer service, you invest in your restaurant business. To put things into perspective, consider the following facts:

  • Loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first order.
  • As a group, Millennials are willing to spend the most (21% additional!) for great customer service.
  • People tell an average of nine people about good experiences and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.
    Source

But what exactly restaurant customer service entails? What does good customer experience look like? How can you apply all this at your restaurant? Worry not, we’re covering these questions in this post.

Let’s get to the basics first:

What does Restaurant Customer Service mean?

Simply put, it’s all about serving the needs of your customers. For a restaurant, it can take many forms – from greeting customers with a smile, sharing recommendations with them to addressing their problems and concerns.

Whether you’re running a dine-in space or a delivery kitchen, the quality of your customer service plays a huge role in developing your restaurant’s image. And not to forget the business you’ll get.

The Cost of Bad Customer Service

It’s a fact – bad customer service can cost you your customers and reputation. Especially in the social media world – where everything is a tweet or Instagram post away from being viral.

Here’s a bad review left on Yelp for a restaurant:

Bad restaurant customer service review

Who wants to be in this situation, right?

This is the exact reason why you shouldn’t leave your customer service do just be reactive to situations. It should be pro-active in making sure you don’t leave any customer unhappy. After all:

“Good customer service costs less than bad customer service.” – Sally Gronow

While there can be situations where you’ll need to handle bad experiences with utmost urgency. We’ll share more examples on that later in this post.

Now that we’ve convinced you about the importance of good customer service. Let’s get on to how you can deliver it at your restaurant.

4 Golden Rules of Restaurant Customer Service

1. Prioritize delivering an outstanding experience over everything else.

By doing so, you’re not only building a stronger relationship with your customers, but you’re also generating positive word-of-mouth that will help in making your restaurant more recognisable and differentiated.

As Scott Cook has mentioned before – “Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.”

This way you’ll never have to worry about the competition.

2. Customer feedback drives successful customer service strategies.

Customer feedback is the only way of understanding what drives customer satisfaction. When customers take time to share their opinion, they’re not just sharing the good or bad points. They’re telling you how to make your service and business better.

Taking customer feedback shows customers that you value their opinion.

3. For great business – see customer service not as a cost, but as a sales opportunity.

Great customer experience is how your restaurant can earn its customers trust. It is how you can get repeat as well as new business for your restaurant over and over again

Great customer service turns your customers into brand advocates. And the more advocates you have the less you have to spend on your acquisition strategies.

4. Never give up or compromise on your service.

One thing you should never do is to compromise on the quality of your customer service. Trust once lost, is gone forever and can bring a lot of bad-word for you in the restaurant market. Keep interacting and finding opportunities to serve your customer better. Find a few tips to start with, in the next section.

Keep reading for the exact steps to build an outstanding customer service experience at your restaurant.

Ways to offer great restaurant customer service

Listen to your staff

Your staff interacts with your customers on a daily basis. They’re the most important touchpoint you can learn from. Also, it is important to train them and provide with all the right resources for an excellent service.

Here are some instant steps you can involve:

  • Hold training programs for your staff.
  • Keep a weekly check-in for suggestions or problem redressal.
  • Ensure there incentives are on time. Happy staff leads to happy customers.
Reward using loyalty programs
Starbucks’ Loyalty Program Rewards

When it comes to building customer loyalty, reward-driven loyalty programs work really well in deriving repeat orders and increasing the number of happy customers.

Here are detailed ideas you can implement for your restaurant’s loyalty program.

Don’t just take feedback, incorporate it

We know that customer feedback sets the way for better customer service. Here’s what a feedback process should look like for your restaurant:

  1. Ask for customer feedback
  2. Categorize the feedback
  3. Act on the feedback
  4. Follow-up with customers who shared feedback

Remember, acting on the feedback and incorporating relevant points in your function is essential for reaping the most benefits out of this process.

If you make a mistake, apologize – and mean it

You can’t avoid mistakes compete in any business. Restaurants are no different. What’s important is you own up and fix them as fast as possible.

Look how Domino’s super quick in this, using their social media handles:

Bad customer service review
Make data your friend

From personalisation in communication to menu updates and beyond – data can help you streamline processes as well as make informed decisions.

Your restaurant’s most important data metrics may be lying ideal without the right tools and knowledge to understand them. These can be critical in improving our customer experience.

Know more about how you can use restaurant analytics here.

Now here are some BONUS IDEAS to implement depending on the type of restaurant model you’re running:

Dine-in Model

Streamline the wait times

For a dine-in restaurant, better customer starts with reducing the wait-time and making sure your customers don’t face any discomfort while waiting for their turn.

This can be done using technologies like table reservation, mobile-tablets for faster order taking, quicker payment methods and most of all – training your staff to handle chaos.

Self-service kiosks

self-service-kiosk

People are increasingly wanting to use self-service technology at restaurants. The important part here is to ensure that they have an easy and consistent experience while placing their order.

Split checks

Splitting the check is one of the top requests in the payments domain for any restaurant. Your servers and software should be quick to process it.

Pre-service & post-service gifts

The best part about having a dine-in model is that you can control the entire experience for your customer from the moment they enter the premise. It’s always good to surprise them with a small drink/or eating items even before they see your menu or place an order.

It’ll always help in setting a smile on their face.

Delivery Model

Personalise your communication

Virtual communication is all you have when running a delivery-only model. Make the best of it by involving personalisation and topical messages. These resonate with your customers and make them place fresh orders.

Here are all the ideas you need for better CRM campaigns

Say thank you

Sending a thank-you note or goodie with every order is a small way to make a mark in your customer’s mind. Here’s an example –

Speedy delivery

There’s nothing that beats quick delivery. Hot food is sure to make your customers happy and score you some great customer experience points.

While we wrap up with this post, here’s some Maya Angelou wisdom for you:

“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So make your customer experience memorable. 🙂

What other customer service ideas have worked well for you? Which ones have fallen flat? Tell us in the comments below.

Restaurant Customer Service: How to Provide a Standout Experience
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Niharika Maggo

Niharika Maggo

Niharika is a Content Marketer at LimeTray. When she’s not busy wearing down the keys on her keyboard, she's found listening to podcasts, reading or drinking tea. She can be reached at marketing@limetray.com.