Using Customer Comment Cards in the Restaurant

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restaurant server at table with guests An effective restaurant seeks out clientele opinion, both good and bad. Customer comments can help point out the areas of a restaurant that need improvement, as well as highlight the things a restaurant is doing well. As a restaurant owner or manager, consider bringing in a customer comment card system as a means of obtaining feedback. It can help you see through the eyes of your guests, and the information you can gain from that perspective is key to making your operation even more successful.

Build Better Customer Relationships

As stated above, the customer comment cards are valid feedback tools. Providing customers with the opportunity to comment demonstrates that you value opinions and wish to improve the product and services your restaurant provides. Essentially, it shows that you care about the customer. By taking the initiative to learn about what customers think of your operation, you can then begin to build better relationships with your patrons. Even if it is impossible to please everyone, you can still use their comments as a tool to building a better business.

Gain Marketing Information

Not only do your customer comment cards gather information that can help your restaurant improve its service and products, they also have the ability to help accumulate marketing data as well. Customers will occasionally leave their email address or other contact information on the comment card, allowing you to expand your database of information. Also, if the means are available, you can email customers monthly newsletters or printable coupons. The more connected you are with your customers, the better you’ll be able to serve them.

Provide Emotional Outlets

There are other ways for a restaurant or business to obtain feedback from its guests. Some businesses swear by the need to perform verbal solicitations for customer information. Others will send questionnaires via mail or email. These are both important ways of gathering information. However, the customer comment card can provide a more immediate and anonymous form of offering feedback. The act of writing down comments on paper has the potential to absorb a significant amount of emotional impact. Having a place to record their experiences can divert unhappy customers from complaining about the restaurant to their friends or an even more public forum.

Making the Most of Customer Comment Cards

When implementing a customer feedback system, be sure to take the time to plan out your strategy. Ask questions that will provide beneficial information to your restaurant and construct the card in a way that makes it accessible to guests. Learn more with the guidelines below:

  • Use professional printing services. If you want your comment cards to be taken seriously, they must look professional. Unless you have your own way of printing several hundred or more high-end customer comment cards, professional printers are the way to go.
  • Be simple and concise. Use clear and to-the-point wording with everything printed on the card. Questions should be straightforward and easy to answer. The entire card should take no longer than a minute or two to fill out.
  • Place the cards in a prime location.Obviously, if you do not put your customer comment cards in a place where they will be readily seen, then they are useless to you. Try placing a stack of customer comment cards on the table, or use a cardholder to display it. Servers might also deliver a customer comment card with every final check.
  • Let guests know how to return cards. Make sure there is a drop box or similar location available for customers to return the cards. Servers can let customers know where to drop the cards on their way out, or offer to take them from the guests after they are finished filling them out.
  • Provide incentives to return cards. Giving the customer an incentive to fill out the card is a good way to ensure that the customer actually completes and returns it. Offering a 10% discount or a free item often provides the motivation needed for customers to hand in their cards. Also, while it lacks immediacy, it might be helpful to provide the customer with the chance to return their comments by mail. Consider making post-card versions so that customers have the option of mailing them back to your restaurant.
  • Acknowledge your customer’s time. When a customer fills out a comment card, and provides a mailing or email address, consider writing a personal note of thanks to acknowledge the customer’s comments. This is especially important for customers with negative comments. They want to know that their complaint is taken to heart and will be addressed accordingly. Writing a personal response is time-consuming, but a memorable gesture such as this can be a very effective way to win the customer back.

Remember to Talk with Customers in Person

Customer comment card systems should be introduced alongside verbal conversations between restaurant workers and customers during and after the dining experience. A manager or dedicated server should be on the floor asking diners questions. “How did you find your meal this evening?” might be all it takes to open the door of communication. Anything your guest says is valuable information, so advise your restaurant managers and staff to listen closely and acknowledge both positive and negative feedback.

Create a Manager’s Log

Lastly, consider creating a manager’s log. This is a notebook or binder kept in the back of the house as a means of recording customer feedback after a conversation is finished. This can help keep management aware of the verbal comments restaurant staff receive from customers. However, it is best to remember that when a customer complains of a problem, restaurant employees should rectify the situation immediately. After the problem is resolved, then a note of the issue should be made in the manager’s log. » More on Caring for Upset Customers

Download a printable Customer Comment Card (PDF)

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