In the age of self-service kiosks and other innovative technologies, the human touch remains the essential quality for any restaurant. Such technologies can improve efficiency, but without friendly and convenient customer service, patrons will miss the unique experiences which make them feel personally valued and motivated to return.

Going the extra mile to deliver the “wow” factor is crucial in distinguishing your restaurant as a cut above the rest.  To “wow” your patrons is not only to accurately anticipate their needs but also to exceed them. Here are some hot tips on how to “wow” your guests and keep them coming back.

Friendliness and cleanliness

Friendliness is key to any customer interaction, but it should be genuine. We all know what it’s like to be greeted with generic, robotic and transparently fake friendliness. Such interactions can feel even worse than unfriendly ones, as scripted or servile service – especially that which refuses to match or even acknowledge the customer’s energy – makes everyone feel awkward.

Welcoming and thanking guests by name and without a standard script is vital. Smiling and small talk should flow naturally, maintained at a level the customer is comfortable with. Customer’s requests should be repeated back to them to ensure accuracy and to let them know that you’re listening.

Maintaining the cleanliness of the store and impeccable presentation of employees is key to respecting the customer and making them feel comfortable. A trusted supplier for workwear must be sought, whether sourced locally or found online at Cherokee Uniforms, for example.

How to prevent conflict

Friendliness should persist especially when a customer is aggravating. Taking deep breaths and drawing on co-workers in stressful situations can be helpful. The best way of dealing with conflict, however, is to prevent it arising in the first place.

Listening and waiting until a customer is finished speaking ensures that they feel respected. Such courtesy is equally if not more important over the phone or online, as such encounters can easily feel impersonal.

It is always important to respond to a customer’s inquiries promptly, irrespective of the medium (be it in person, over the telephone or online). Angry customers, especially, should not be put on hold.  Avoid restaurant or management jargon when talking to customers as they can get annoyed when they don’t understand what you’re talking about.

Making it easy

The best way to make your restaurant’s experience memorable and to avoid conflict is to simply to make things easy. We all know what it’s like to deal with bureaucracy and we don’t want that experience when we go out, especially if it feels like things are being unnecessarily complicated. Customers want clear information and many options.

Make sure your staff knows your various dietary options, list relevant ingredients (e.g. meat, dairy or food allergens) on the menu and allow guests to sample wine and beer. Options make customers feel de-stressed and in control – the more options available, the happier the customer.

Drinks should be billed to an ordinary tab, not separately, and your system should be optimized to allow for simple and easy splitting of checks by table, people or even menu items. Customers should be able to pay at the table and receive receipts by text or email if they desire.

With massive adoption of online food-ordering services, allowing online ordering – including pickup and delivery – is a must. Online reservations, likewise, are essential, plus they also allow you to build an email list for marketing.

Going the extra mile

It’s going the extra mile for your consideration, creativity and generosity that really puts you above the rest. If you are a family restaurant, consider the kids. Kids know when they’re being ignored, and will reliably let their parents – and others – know. If kids are happy, so are parents, so provide them with coloring pages and kid-friendly menu items.

Everyone likes pre-service and post-service gifts: something small and light but special, like pappadums, prawn chips or exotic candies. Interesting and fun non-alcoholic beverages are a must to keep your menu from looking like the same boring old assortment of generic juices, soft drinks and coffee. Introduce a mulled wine, frappuccino or some other funky drink.

Involve your customers in new specials and product offerings: ask guests what they want on social media and give it to them. If you’re confident about your menu and want to share it, give away the recipe for your signature dish on social media. Breaking this taboo is ballsy: it shows confidence and transparency, which are highly attractive traits. You could get creative, having your chef film a tutorial of how it is made.

Consideration, creativity and generosity in your management and marketing will translate, with well-trained staff, into the customer service experiences your restaurant delivers. Make it easy and enjoyable for your customers and they’ll return the favor!

This post was written by Lily Martin. Lily is a student at a business school. She has a passion for small, independent businesses and wants to help owners of these businesses succeed and grow.

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