When guests come to your restaurant, you should treat them as if they are friends visiting your home. Treating your guests with care and providing an exceptional place for them to enjoy a meal is part of the reason they will come back to your restaurant again.
When customers come through your doors, they expect quality in every aspect of the restaurant. Guests are looking for a value in the things they see, taste and touch, and so providing them with exceptional quality will certainly leave a good taste in their mouths.
Food and beverages are probably the biggest indicator of quality that a customer notices. Food quality is not only important to the customers’ impressions of the overall restaurant experience, but it is important for the their health, as well. Guests’ health should never be compromised. Although not all restaurants can boast the best quality food in town, they can still take measures to ensure that food is stored and prepared safely. Take the following considerations when assuring food quality in your restaurant:
- Be sure to follow proper first-in, first-out (FIFO) rotation with all food products.
- Properly label and date all food products.
- Never serve food that has expired.
- Prepare products safely, avoiding cross-contamination with dangerous bacteria or cross-contact with allergens.
- Wash hands before and after handling food products.
- Prepare and serve foods at proper, safe temperatures.
When guests enter your restaurant, they should feel as though they are in a special, comfortable place. Try these suggestions to create a superior ambience in your restaurant:
- Make deliberate choices with lighting. Consider your concept, and be sure the strength of the light suits the tone you wish to portray to your guests.
- Choose music carefully. Make sure the volume of your music is audible but not distracting. Music should help create the ambience rather than overwhelm it.
- Decorate appropriately. Decorate your restaurant with a special, unique theme or focal point.
- Keep the restaurant spotless. Even a quick-service restaurant needs to demonstrate a high standard of cleanliness for customers to feel good about the quality of food.
- Maintain the temperature. Maintain a comfortable inside temperature in your building. 70°F is usually acceptable. Minimize drafts or hot spots from lights as much as possible.
Perhaps even more important than food quality is the service the customers experience from the time they enter the restaurant until the time they walk out the doors. Although restaurants thrive because of sales, the sale should never be put before the customer’s needs.
How to Speak with Customers
In any restaurant or food service environment, speaking to customers should always involve the utmost respect and courtesy. This goes for all workers, from drive-thru attendants to servers at fine dining establishments. This is rather idealistic. However, restaurant workers should follow these general guidelines when speaking with customers:
- Use respectful titles, such as “sir” and “ma’am.”
- Be optimistic, and speak with a smile.
- Never interrupt or talk over guests’ conversations if you can help it.
- Know your menu so you can speak intelligently to educate guests.
- Listen with respect and care to what the customer has to say.
- Be sure you ask questions to clarify a customer’s order if there is any confusion.
- Be honest and straight-forward with customers at all times, especially if there is a problem.
How to Answer the Phone in a Busy Situation
When answering the telephone in a busy restaurant, never answer with “Thanks for calling, hold please,” as this immediately belittles the person on the other end.
- If the phone rings while you are helping another guest, politely ask the guest to excuse you for a moment, then answer the phone.
- After greeting appropriately, let the person on the other line know you will be able to help them momentarily.
- Finish helping your current guest and come back to the phone within the next minute if possible.
How to Serve and Clear Food
Serving etiquette varies depending on the restaurant serving type. The restaurant types where this matters the most are upscale or fine dining restaurants. Managers should train their servers in proper table etiquette if they are unsure of how to proceed in a serving or clearing situation. The following tips describe the basics:
- Serve in the appropriate order. Service order is usually an important standard upheld in fine dining restaurants or formal banquets. In these dining establishments, it is appropriate to serve the guest of honor first, then the female guests and then the males. In less formal restaurants, it is acceptable to simply serve women before men.
- Serve and clear food from the left. Servers should serve and clear food from the diner’s left side. Some formal restaurants advise serving with the left hand for these tasks. Serving from the left is best since most diners are right-handed. Politely excuse yourself if you find that you are interrupting or reaching.
- Serve and pour beverages from the right. Serve or pour beverages from the diner’s right side since that is usually where the glasses are set on the table.
- Serve the correct order to each guest. When serving food, servers and food runners should not call out entrées to see who at the table claims the dishes. Servers and food runners should have a system to identify which plates correspond to which guest without having to mimic an auction house.
- Never rush a party to finish. Good service extends beyond the meal to the entire length of time the party is inside the restaurant.
- Clear all plates at the same time. Unless otherwise requested, clear all plates and empty glasses at the same time, and before presenting the check.
Speed of Service
Speed of service is an important phrase in most quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. These restaurants capitalize on convenience and speed. They often have a speed of service goal built into their policies. See the examples below:
- A fast-casual pizza place might have a speed of service goal of 10 minutes from the moment the order is taken to the moment the guest receives the pizza.
- A smoothie shop or coffee house might have a more aggressive goal of three minutes, since these drinks require less assembly and preparation.
Speed of service is integral to a positive dining experience no matter the restaurant service type. A guest will likely form expectations as to how long they should wait for the food, depending on the restaurant. The guest will be annoyed if his two-dollar cheeseburger took ten minutes to serve, but in a fine dining restaurant, that guest will probably not get upset until he has waited half an hour or more for his entrée. Make it your goal to accommodate all guests with the same quality food within the same time frame at all hours of the work day.
Caring for Upset Customers
Now and again there are bound to be problems. A customer may be dissatisfied with his meal or may find the quality to be below his standards. Sometimes guests will find the need to vent anger or annoyance before the problem can be resolved. Be sure to train servers the proper ways to handle customer complaints. Retaining upset customers can be a challenge. When you put in the effort and respect to recover distressed customers, you may be able to convince them to return to your establishment in the future.
Customer Comment Cards
Customer comment cards are a great way of evaluating the customer experience. Customer comment cards are typically set out on the table or delivered by the server at the end of the meal. Customers can rate qualities of the restaurant, such as food presentation, menu pricing and server friendliness.
The basic suggestions and examples above are offered as stepping stones along the path to memorable service and outstanding quality in the restaurant. Restaurant owners must strive to impress these values upon their managers and staff so that guests will have memorable, outstanding dining experiences every time they come to dine.