Mistakes happen. But the key to success is to minimize these mistakes and maximize accuracy.

We’ve all been there. We’re craving a particular chicken sandwich with spicy mayo from a nearby restaurant, and we order it to go. We get home and are devastated to discover that they sent us home with a cheeseburger instead. Now, we need to schlep back to the restaurant and wait for them to make our order correctly. It’s inconvenient and disappointing—and will make us less likely to order from this restaurant for our next takeout night.

Customers expect great food and service when they visit restaurants, and nothing turns them off like not getting what they ordered. In fact, incorrect orders are a top complaint, leaving customers frustrated and unsatisfied. In fact, one wrong order can prevent a customer from returning. And in this age of social media, one unhappy customer can spread scathing reviews across the Internet, which can damage customer loyalty, sales and, ultimately, your reputation.

Inaccuracy can also, unfortunately, lead to more waste (and related costs), as your team will need to trash the wrong order and remake it correctly. At a time of soaring inflation—when every dollar counts—this waste can really hurt your bottom line.

Not only will your restaurant lose money processing inaccurate order returns, but you’ll also face the added expense of trying to appease unhappy customers, which could mean giving them the meal (or meals) for free. Now you’ve made a meal twice, and not gotten paid for either one. Doing that multiple times per shift will add up fast!

Your order accuracy—the percentage of orders that are fulfilled and presented to your customers correctly—matters because it’s a key performance indicator (KPI) that shows how well (or poorly) your restaurant is doing at giving guests what they want and expect. Poor order accuracy can cost your restaurant time, money, and even your reputation, so boosting this key metric should be a high priority.

Key drivers for accuracy include the complexity and variability of the menu item, as well as the number of items in the order. But there are other factors at play, including your BOH layout, which impacts how orders are executed, as well as the experience of the people taking and making the orders.

To make your customers to feel valued and appreciated, you must get their orders right.

Implement the following to boost accuracy in your restaurant:

Set an order accuracy goal. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so set an accuracy rate metric (shoot for 98 percent or higher) and measure it regularly. If you’re falling short on this goal, use tech tools to determine why. Once you determine the problem (maybe your employees need more training), then you can fix it to raise this important metric.

Implement software. Tech tools allow you to identify critical components that impact accuracy, including number of employees per shift, whether special requests are being properly identified, whether you have proper ingredients in stock, etc.

Train employees. You could have the best systems and tech tools available, but if your employees aren’t properly trained to use them, they could make mistakes that could jeopardize client satisfaction/loyalty – and your restaurant’s reputation. Make proper, ongoing training a priority!

Clarify and verify. Take (and process) the order carefully. Ensure employees repeat the order back to the customer as they enter it into their system. Empower staff to ask questions if they’re unclear about the order or any special requests. Be sure the special requests are properly communicated through every step of the meal preparation process.

Check the order repeatedly. Everyone working on the order should double-check it against the original ticket—at every production stage—before it reaches the guest to ensure proper specifications are being followed. And mark modified items clearly. For food allergic guests, this effort is even more critical, so identify allergy-friendly meals with colored frill picks, special plates or packaging, or stickers on to-go bags.

Schedule smarter. U.S. restaurants have 1 million fewer employees than they had pre-pandemic. Restaurants nationwide are understaffed, and overworked, exhausted employees tend to make mistakes. Use digital tools to determine your busiest and slowest shifts based on historical patterns, and staff appropriately. When you have the proper number of employees working, it reduces the burden and makes operations more seamless and accurate. Also, give employees time off so they don’t get burnt out.

Track accountability. Tracking accountability allows you to improve it, whenever necessary. Tech tools allow you to track employee performance, including compliance, so you can identify (and fix) any problems immediately. Digital solutions allow you to track compliance and accountability across the enterprise, or drilled down by restaurant location, so you can assess performance and adjust, as needed.

Collect and leverage data to build predictive models. Use this information to determine factors that can impact accuracy, including restaurant layout, menu options, inventory in stock, etc. When building a predictive model, identify the datasets you need to see the things you want to predict. Then, use tech tools to build an algorithm using that incoming dataset to make predictions and learn.

Recognize and reward employees.  Incentive programs can increase employee performance by as much as 44 percent. Emphasize the importance of accuracy, and praise employees who are excelling in this area. Spotlight high-performing employees in team meetings and on social media. Also, a sincere note or text can make employees feel seen and appreciated.

Know that online reviews matter. A whopping 97 percent of consumers rely on online reviews, so these reviews can really make or break your business. In fact, 94 percent of consumers refuse to patronize a business that has bad reviews online. It’s essential that your team works to secure more positive posts and decrease negative ones. A Harvard Business Review study found a business’s revenue increases 5–9 percent for every one-star increase on Yelp. Give your customers what they want—and treat them with kindness—to boost satisfaction and positive reviews.

Mistakes happen. But the key to success is to minimize these mistakes and maximize accuracy, with a 98 percent order accuracy goal. Follow these tips to ensure that your customers get their correct order. Happy customers will come back—and recommend your restaurant to others.

Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is an Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint is disrupting traditional market software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite Supplier Certification Management, which helps small to medium sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at dallas.henderson@rizepoint.com.

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology