Customers decide in short order whether the restaurant experience they're having – be it dine-in, takeout, curbside pickup or delivery – is a good one. And they remember that experience for a long time.
"Experience" is still a top priority for foodservice customers, as highlighted at the recent Kitchentelligence Live virtual food show. From greetings to takeout and curbside pickups to the paying of the check and everything in-between, customer experience is a multi-factored mosaic.
Here are some key ways to create satisfying guest experiences.
Define the Experience
"Identify what a 'good' experience truly means for your operation," says Chef Angel Morales, Shamrock Foods Corporate Chef, AZ. "Align the experience with your brand." Establish parameters for each type of service you provide: dine-in, takeout, curbside pickup and delivery.
"You'll never get what you always got unless you start to do what you never did," says Jim Hargrove, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant. Let staff know what will be measured. Lay out your procedures for guests, too – via staff interactions, signage, your website and social media. Clearly communicate the new safety protocols for dine-in and takeout and explain your current sanitation practices.
"Teach, track, coach... repeat," Morales advises. "Make sure all staff members are trained in their specific positions to ensure a better guest experience."
Personalize the experience
"Learn guests' names. Know what regulars like and ask if they want their 'regular' items," says Chef Tim Maness, Shamrock Foods Business Review Specialist, CO.
Extend the experience beyond your four walls
Takeout and delivery will continue to be important revenue models in the future. Simplify those menus. Emphasize accuracy and use checklists to ensure it. Package food in leak-proof, tamper-evident, eco-friendly takeout containers. Be efficient in order to serve the needs of takeout customers in an expeditious way, but be as welcoming as you would for dine-in guests; never make them feel rushed. Warm up interaction points with clear, friendly language and signage.
"Guests know when you're being authentic, they don't like to be sold to, they love a genuine recommendation that comes from sincere enthusiasm," says Jeff Pivin, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant, AZ.
"Feelings play a major role when it comes to customers preferring one brand experience over another," says Mary McVoy, Shamrock Foods Restaurant Consultant, CA. "Make them feel GOOD!" Create a convivial atmosphere. Tell customers how great it is to see them. Use direct eye contact and, when masked, smile with your eyes. Put a smile in your voice when taking phone orders. Use friendly, inviting language on your website, online apps and social media pages.
Train servers and back-of-the-house staff to be able to answer questions about menu items, ingredients, prep and sourcing.
Have staff help one another when guests are ready for their check or need their orders run out to the curb, etc.
Mind the gaps
"Study online reviews to identify ways service could be better," Maness suggests.
Evaluate Your Efforts
Track results via POS reporting. "Talk daily about key performance indicators," McVoy says. "This provides validation that employees delivered, and guests received, the experience you intended."
It takes teamwork to create successful service – which builds a better business.
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