5 Ways to Enhance Customer Service at Your Restaurant


Push your establishment to the next level

Americans can go to a seemingly countless number of establishments to get good food. What they cannot depend on, however, is that those meals are going to be delivered in a timely, friendly, and efficient manner. People dine out all the time, but not just for great cuisine—they dine out for an experience. Great customer service boils down to putting yourself in your patron's shoes and understanding the nature of their ideal dining experience. In order to set your restaurant head and shoulders above the competition, consider the following five points:

1. Develop a Strategy

If you don't fully understand your customer service goals, how can you communicate them to your staff? Take the time to develop a detailed strategy, making sure to include everything you hope to accomplish as well as the best ways to accomplish it. Do you want customers to be seated more quickly? Faster check drops? Faster refills on drinks? In what ways can staff behave in a friendlier manner? It's answers to questions like these that can help you articulate specific goals to your team.

2. Observe Your Managers

Your managers are your generals on the battlefield. And while they certainly want to succeed at their jobs, their own ideas may not be in keeping with yours. Once you've established the guidelines, you need to make sure they're carried out. Follow up regularly to ensure managers execute the high standards you've laid out in your customer service strategy. If they're not up to snuff, pull them aside and counsel them in a professional manner.

3. Conduct a Meeting

When's the last time you had a meeting with both back-of-house and front-of-house team members strictly about customer service? Most members of your team are well-acquainted with its importance, but they might not know how to put certain concepts into action. Forget about the next menu rollout for the moment and devote an entire meeting to satisfying your patrons. Include cooks, wait staff, dishwashers, and busboys—they can all play a role. And don't be afraid to ask your staff for input. They may be able to provide tips and tactics you hadn't considered. An interactive meeting can lead to a collaborative effort, so get everyone involved immediately.

4. Walk the Walk

As a restaurant manager or owner, when's the last time you walked the floor of your establishment? How about the last time you provided a drink refill? It may be time to roll up your sleeves and walk the walk. Set a good example for your staff. Show them what you expect in terms of customer service, and give your patrons the personal attention that every diner appreciates.

5. Enlist the Help of Your Customers

If your business has a social media presence, use it to your advantage. Open yourself up to comments, good and bad. No one likes complaints, but dealing with them publicly can work to your advantage. It makes it easier for your customers to voice their opinions, and any concerns can be satisfied faster. Plus, to top it off, other potential customers out there are going to know that you genuinely care about their experience in your restaurant.

Closing Thoughts

I worked in the restaurant management business for decades, and my biggest struggle was ensuring consistent customer service on a daily basis. You can't dictate your desires from the mountaintop and expect them to be magically enacted—it takes hands-on attention. Educate your team. Show them you're willing to put the work in, too. Before you know it, you're going to leave your competitors in the dust.

What ways can you think of to improve customer service at your place of business?

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

David Bakke

David Bakke is a former restaurant manager who writes about business strategies, management, and personal finance.


Don't forget the importance of clean, well-stocked and fully functional restrooms. A large percentage of online reviews mention the condition of a restaurant's restrooms. The restroom is an important part of the guest experience. http://www.restroomalert.com

Set up a mystery shopping program to find out what is really happening. Are your guest greeted in a timely manner? Are your servers upselling? Are refills offered as needed? Is the foodserved in a timely manner and delivered as expected? And, are your restrooms perceived as clean? This is a great tool to help revise your training program as needed. We would be happy to help! www.ReflectionsMS.com Kim Combs 503-928-6028Kimcombs@reflectionsms.com

Employees need to see their customers as more than 20% tips in order to give them the consistently superior customer service.Sorry to shock you with its simplicity but as “social” as the world is now you cannot use the business model of the past and still succeed. Your customers have proven a fickle bunch moving on to the next “new, hot restaurant or type of steak” at the drop of a tweet or “like” of a page and you better catch up. Your food and location are no longer the major factors in guaranteeing regular, repeat customers anymore, your service is.One way to achieve the success you are looking for is by helping your servers to genuinely love their time with your customers. Help them see your customers as allies and partners in your employee’s dreams and ambitions and you will accomplish this twofold.When guests return repeatedly and get woven into the fabric of your restaurant’s community it’s just human nature for them to take an interest and begin caring for those who care for and serve them.But ask yourself this, why should your employees work at creating good strong relationships with your customers if you view those customers only as your customers?Good restaurant managers tirelessly generate regular clientele, repeat business, a following, great customer relationships for our boss’s business and for our employees all the time, that’s what we’re paid for but why should your wait staff? Would you go to someone else’s business to create rock-solid regular, repeat and referral customer base on top of the job you are already doing? A solid base of regular customers that you are cordially invited to leave behind after years of development if you choose to work elsewhere? Well if doesn’t make sense to you why would it make sense to the intelligent people you have hired?That would be like constantly arranging dates with supermodels for someone you barely know and going home alone every night.Look, do you yourself a favor and realize the sentence “The customer is never an interruption, he is the reason we are here,” is falling on deaf ears. Your staff feels the entire job is an interruption to their true passions.Whether it be acting, writing, singing, sports, going to school, saving for a car, home or college or college for the kids believe me their passions lie outside of your restaurant and you don’t even acknowledge it.(Print)Unfortunately standard business practices has you duped into believing that your food or your restaurant is the most important element of your business success and the remainder of your success relies on your guests, yet it is your wait staff who are the pure, unadulterated embodiment and face of your business, the go-to people and sole point of contact and representation of your business during each customer’s meal. It astounds me that acceptable practices still treat waiters like an afterthought or even worse.Let’s face it your food alone can’t carry you. Your customers are always looking for the next big thing & once they get “it”, guess what? They move on.A rock-solid, true relationship with a server will guarantee your customers are coming back plus trying new dishes, referring friends, hosting new events and creating new friends. A great steak can’t do that. No matter how wonderful a steak is it can’t introduce your guest to the chef, ask your guest when he is coming back or invite him to upcoming events. Only a relationship can do that. (And unless you plan to be at every table to keep your business profitable, you need to help your staff create relationships. (They won’t see how easy or advantageous it is for them on their own.) You need to empower your employees to want to make each and every guest return, return more often and bring more friends. Only then will your restaurant blast past success, move to autopilot domination, capture and maintain the lion’s-share of customers and profits plus give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of.Sound hard? Try being a waiter! Your employees provide a constant level of superior service for you for which the will receive just 20% tips and yet knowing this, they come to work every day.They do not gain notoriety, equity, community… New York Times reporters will not be trying to write articles about them, magazines likely won’t mention them personally while showcasing “the new hot spot “the head of business development will not come and thank them personally for their part in re-energizing the local business district. And really, they don’t care that they won’t be featured on a hit series called “Top Waiter” because their focus is on their acting, singing, writing saving or family. They operate your business as if it were theirs with no perks, all the problems, little recognition and low pay yet they are expected to give more than any other employee in any other field… they are expected to give more than 100% knowing full well the most they can expect in return is about 20%.(Print)When you see your amazing staff for the hard working, giving, hospitable and supremely generous people that come to work for you every day, you can start to understand the incredible wealth of support, goodwill, competence and enthusiasm supporting your business that you and your customers take for granted.It is actually openly common practice and acceptable operating procedure to take the entire waiting community for granted and yet they arrive thanklessly every day to support your business endeavors and put money in your pockets while simultaneously supporting your customer’s unique needs and desires for their individual dining experiences.Your employees are sometimes treated badly by their co-workers, work long, very physical hours with people they don’t always get along with and when things go wrong, even if it was beyond their control, it has become acceptable to personally insult them, embarrass them publicly in front of superiors, tell them to “Get a real job” and or not give them any money for the time and effort that they did put in.These are the people who should be a major focus of your business model. They are the steam that is driving your engine, the arms and legs of your restaurant.Try focusing on making the engine want to run instead of driving it for year with the “check engine” light on. Try letting the arms and legs dance a little bit by supporting your server’s dreams the way they support yours.How? It’s easy and there are so many ways! Here is just one: almost every management reference source will tell you to menu quiz or contest in return for food and beverage prizes for the winners. Highest appetizer sales contest for example wins bottle of Bordeaux at the end of the week for example. Or free dinner at the restaurant for the highest score on the 5 page menu test.It’s a great idea but why not take it a step further and empower your servers to use the gift however they see fit. Perhaps they don’t want any more free wine and would prefer cash instead. Maybe they have had everything on the menu and aren’t exactly waking up thinking about how to score better on the menu test as a result. Why not give them the power to “re-gift” their prize to a customer or even future customer?Imagine the tip, respect and door that would open for this waiter! Imagine the shock and surprise of this customer when he received a “hand selected” bottle of wine for good behavior or to make a special occasion extraordinary.His gift in his station to the guest of his choice for the reason of his choice. (Returning customer, most polite, cutest couple, special occasion “wow” a new customer, bring in a guest who had never heard of the restaurant or holds a contest of his own in his station to win the bottle. He could test them on their menu knowledge or even knowledge of him personally, drawing each guest into the fold of his true passion and endeavors even collecting business cards or contact info for awarding the prize at a later date.)Imagine how much more power and pride your servers feel with a big ticket item at his disposal! Imagine what a different view he now views all of your otherwise anonymous customers and potential customers with. Imagine the different view your customers have regarding a server who took an ordinary evening and turned it into something unforgettably remarkable and newsworthy on all of their social media outlets. You will have true enthusiasm and appreciation from both employees and customers when you focus on supporting and empowering the system that operates and empowers your business.Gets your business thriving! One way is to empower your staff by giving them the option to pass their rewards on to their customers giving them the opportunity to make much more than 20% and opening the door to a lifelong customer and someone who will be attending that server’s plays or buying his books.Conclusion: How can you expect your staff to create a long term relationships and repeat customers without the tools to do it with?Conclusion of conclusion: Don’t hoard your customers. Let your employees have them too. Encourage employees to build great relationships with your customers so they will be the first people to buy the books your employees write and sit in the front row of the lays your employees are in. (They are going to buy books and see plays anyway! It’s in your best interest that they want to see the dreams your staff is working toward because it further endears them to the restaurant and that comes back to you tenfold!)Super conclusion wrap up: Empower. Give your staff tools to empower themselves, build relationships with your customers and create close personal bonds. Share your customers with your servers and you will have more dedicated, engaged employees enjoying their job and much more respect from their guests. You will have much more committed customers looking to come back more often and with friends at a business where they are known and people are happy to see them and your servers will have a built in database of customers and friends for their endeavors outside of their restaurant job.Support the dreams of the people who support your dreams and you will have no competition.More: http://leeannehomsey.com/waite...

A great list, thanks for sharing David!We put together a list of 17 tips for great restaurant customer service as well. (http://www.zoomshift.com/resta...From my experience, smiling can be one of the best tactics to great customer service.

Great read David. I would like another point on how restaurants can improve their customer service by creating personalised experiences. With the rise in smartphones and customers looking for personalised experiences, businesses are adopting beacon technology to create personalised location-aware experiences.
This technology is a perfect fit in restaurants. From delivering the scrumptious menu to rewarding customers in real-time, beacon technology does it all.

When someone orders water, why not give them an assortment of flavor packets to enhance their water flavor

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