Why Service Matters
Posted: Oct. 24, 2016
What can be more damaging to a restaurant than bad food? Poor service. The restaurant industry is hard enough to break into; staying in it is another test altogether. Take, for instance, the now infamous research study from Ohio State University indicating that 40% of restaurants are successful in their first year of business, and only 20% stay open longer than five years.
Failure can be a result of not having the three pillars of success: delicious food, a great location, and good service. When a restaurant has these qualities, it’s easier to beat the odds.
Today we’re focusing on the third pillar of success. Why? Simply put, good service has never mattered as much as it does today.
Why Good Service Matters
Top-quality customer service used to be expected exclusively from fine-dining establishments, but with the advent of Internet reviews, the tide has changed. Restaurant owners and staff now have to remain extremely vigilant when it comes to their service standards. Diners who visit your restaurant expect to receive the best service possible, no matter how low-priced your menu items might be. The alternative could result in a negative review, affecting word of mouth.
Speed is a tricky subject. During the course of one meal, there are many points at which customers expect expediency, such as when:
- Being seated
- Receiving water glasses
- Having their orders taken
- Expecting bread
- Needing a drink refill
- Waiting for their dishes to be cleared
- Asking for the check
There are countless other moments when your customers expect quick service. With a charming and attentive server, most of them are overlooked. Nonetheless, establishing the process for seating and serving your customers will help your servers to give consistently high-level customer care.
The one wait-time period that tends to be unforgiven is slow food delivery. The difficulties this area presents are paramount—particularly if your restaurant concept is based on slow-food-cooking processes. Some customers may appreciate when more time is spent preparing a dish, because it shows a commitment to their overall satisfaction. As you might already know, however, there are limits to a customer’s patience, and toeing that line between “appreciating the cooking process” and “waiting too long” threatens your business.
It is your duty to deliver food as quickly as possible. Management, serving staff, and kitchen staff alike need to be on their toes throughout open hours. Your waitstaff must be trained to:
- Meet the basic needs of customers quickly (such as bringing water and bread right away)
- Take efficient notes
- Remember special requests
- Keep an eye out for customers trying to get their attention
In kind, your kitchen needs to have a process that guarantees a speedy delivery without compromising quality. If certain dishes take longer to prepare, make sure that information is communicated to customers at the time the order is taken. By reviewing your existing patterns and talking to staff about ways to improve, you will receive positive feedback from customers in turn.
Effective and Professional Communication
Effective communication in restaurants is two-fold. On one side, internal communications need to be clear, and on the other, your front of house needs to maintain a clear dialogue with customers. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the latter.
Maintaining precise communication with your customers is essential. When diners arrive at your restaurant, they are not just choosing to spend part of their earnings on you; they are also trusting your staff to deliver an enjoyable experience. While not every server needs to be a witty comedian, they do need to take orders correctly, communicate specials and changes without prompting, and anticipate customer needs.
The waitstaff should aim to be friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient in their verbal delivery. Some customers need more attention than others, and efforts must be paid to these individuals in particular, without griping or eye-rolling. Since your host and servers are the faces your customers see, they have a direct effect on the overall experience of a diner. Reinforce to your servers how important their role is to the restaurant, and go over different scenarios your staff might experience—such as awkward or uncomfortable conversations—so they know how to handle them with professionalism.
Less Is More
Some restaurants have the luxury of expanding their businesses to several storefronts. At the risk of sounding too cautious, we advise extreme care if you are considering opening more locations. Because of the increasing demand for top-quality ingredients, the nature of dining out has become exceedingly fastidious. Diners in the current market prefer a few excellent selections over an excess of lesser food options.
Restaurant owners now have the luxury of building a strong reputation with a dining population that is steadfast—when the service and food are good. By overextending your resources, you might deliver a worse product and see declining sales.
The same principle applies to menu and seating options: Less is more
Posted: Oct. 24, 2016 | Written By: Emma Alois