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5 Ways to Enhance Customer Service at Your Restaurant

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Push your establishment to the next level
By David Bakke September 2013 Expert Insights

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.