While restaurants are in the food industry, they are also, just as importantly, in the hospitality industry. Customer service practices can elevate a good restaurant to exceptional or demote a popular restaurant to just so-so. Here are the best ways to make new and regular customers alike feel pampered.
Say My Name, Say My Name
First things first: address your customers by name. This is an easy, actionable gesture, recommended by Tai Ricci of Hi Neighbor hospitality group in San Francisco, that goes a long way. Of course you know the names of customers with reservations, but if you don’t know a customer’s name, simply ask! This will make them feel like they’re getting a personalized experience at your establishment. Other tips from Tai on how to greet customers? Look them in the eye, and ask them how they’re doing.
Safety and Service
Collecting information on food allergies and preferences might be the most important information you can gather about customers. In the case of food allergies, it’s a safety measure, but recording their preferences helps you cater recommendations accordingly and anticipate orders. Eamon Rockey, creator of Rockey’s Milk Punch and veteran of Eleven Madison Park, says that when you have detailed notes on a customer’s likes and orders, you can give them VIP treatment, such as having their favorite drink waiting for them at the table as they arrive.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Be sure to record special occasions customers celebrate at your restaurant. Not only can you make the event memorable, but you can reach out next year to invite customers back again. However, be sure to also include negative experiences. Danny Meyer restaurants are especially known for their focus on hospitality, and Gramercy Tavern is no exception. Paul Walsh, Guest Relations Manager at Gramercy Tavern recommends recording all the details about a customer’s experience, even the negative ones. That way, when the customer returns and you can remedy the issue, they feel valued.
Keep it Classy
When taking notes on negative experiences, or even difficult customers, make sure not to be derogatory. Just include the facts, and don’t pass judgement or insult the customer. If your notes are leaked, you could be badly embarrassed. One way restaurants avoid this is to use codes.
Having all this information is only helpful if you share it with your staff. Casa Mono in NYC has a daily staff meeting during family meal where the manager gives a breakdown of all the reservations on the books – who’s been in before, who’s dining for the first time, and any important information the staff needs to give excellent service.
OpenTable is the most ubiquitous platform for collecting guest information; you can even share the information across restaurants in the same group. But if you don’t use OpenTable, a well-organized guest notebook or a shared Google Doc that your staff can access are options. The most important thing is that staff can quickly and easily record and access the notes.