Customer satisfaction is the prime driver of growth in the restaurant industry. This is especially true in the modern age where a few unhappy reviews on third party sites like Yelp or Zomato is sufficient to send your revenues in a tailspin. Unfortunately, the taste of your food or courteousness of the waiting staff alone is along not enough. You may receive a bad rating for a number of reasons including waiting time, the lack of valet parking, authenticity of food, dining experience, price, portion sizes and the time taken to deliver your food.
It is unrealistic to expect every customer to be happy with each of the various parameters that your business is judged upon. What restaurant owners can however do is mitigate unhappiness early on and avoid escalations. Here are some tips to keeping customers happy.
Engage with people in waiting lines
Lengthy waiting times tend to frustrate your customers and sets a bad first impression. This is further worsened due to apathy from your waiting staff who are only paid to service customers seated on their tables. There are multiple ways to keep waiting customers in good humor. First off, make sure there is sufficient sitting space for those in waiting. But perhaps the most effective strategy is to engage with these customers by providing them complementary drinks or chocolates. While high-end restaurants may frown upon this practice, it is also a good idea to provide a set of menus to people in waiting so that they could at least make their decision while they are waiting to be seated. It may be unfair to get your waiting staff to engage these customers in addition to those seated. The responsibility for engaging waiting customers usually falls on the host or hostess.
Deliver what you promise
Dining is an experience and the job of a restaurant is to deliver what is promised to the customer. For example, a fine dining restaurant is typically high-end and everything from the name of the restaurant, to the items on the menu, the menu card design, uniform of the waiting staff, cutlery and interiors must align to the fine dining experience. Any deviation from the advertised perceptions can cause a misalignment in the way your customer looks at your service, and this tends to impact your ratings.
Get feedback and act on them
Restaurants do offer feedback forms to customers. However, they are often not customized to specific issues that people in your town or geography may have. Perusing the reviews of your closest competitors in the neighborhood will provide you with a sense of the issues that matter to your customers. For instance, customers visiting restaurants in a crowded neighborhood may complain about parking spaces. Similarly, if you run an Indian restaurant, you are likely to face unhappy customers who complain about the food being either too spicy or not spicy enough. Understanding these common issues that your target customers face will help you fix them before they get worse.
Keep a tab on your portion sizes
At the end of the day, an evening at a restaurant is still a business transaction. The customer judges their experience by the value they got for the money spent. This not only includes the ambiance and the quality of food itself, but also the portion sizes. Unfortunately, while restaurants routinely ensure that the experience they provide and the quality of their service meets customer expectations, they rarely evaluate this for the portion sizes. A customer who is still left hungry after paying for a meal may not leave a favorable review even if your restaurant provided them quality food and a wonderful experience.
Making a hungry customer happy is never an easy task. But while an unhappy customer is bad for business, they are still great to identify missed opportunities and areas of improvement. This is ultimately the only way for a restaurant to know what works and will get customers to come back.