Four Ways Restaurants Can Improve the Customer Experience

And what you can learn from their mistakes

It’s no secret that I really like to eat and that I spend quite a bit of time in restaurants.  However, there are four things that occur in far too many restaurants that make it clear that they aren’t totally focused on the customer.  Here are my four tips to restaurants from the customers’ perspective: 

Take (and honor) reservations:
Time is our most precious and fleeting resource.  So, I don’t want to spend it hanging out in the waiting area (or bar) of your establishment, unless that was my predetermined plan.  Make sure that you take reservations to show that you value your customers’ time and when they show up, seat them at or very near the time of the reservation.  A 7:30 reservations should not mean 7:50 seating.

Write down my damn order:
When I go to a restaurant, I am well aware that I am not in a Jedi Mind Academy.  I am not impressed by memorization skills- I am impressed when my order comes out correctly.  So, have your waitstaff write the order down the first time.  Oh, and for brownie points (and by brownie points, I mean me not sending the food back), check the food against the written order before you bring it to the table.  Double points if your staff actually knows who at the table ordered each dish!

Stop leaning over me while I eat:
This is my #1 restaurant pet peeve and ranks in my top five peeves in life.  When I am enjoying a meal, I want to enjoy a meal.  I don’t know if waiters think are helping by clearing others’ plates, leaning over me and having their dandruff fall into my meal, or if it is just their way of rushing to turn the table.  Either way, it sucks (and in many cases, it is kinda gross).  I don’t want you leaning over me or my food, I don’t want you to bump into me, I don’t want to have to “excuse you” while you rearrange crap in front of me and I don’t want everyone else to have their plates taken away and have me be the “which of these kids is doing his own thing” at the table by being the last one left with a dish in front of me.

Don’t ask if you don’t give a flying ______:
If you are the manager, host, waiter or anyone else on the restaurant staff and you come by the table to find out how things were, then you should actually care.  If I have feedback that you don’t want to hear, deal with it or don’t ask the damn question in the first place.  Or if I give a compliment to the staff, make it clear that you are glad to get it.  If you are going to go through the motions to check on the customer, then you should want to act upon feedback. 

The takeaway:  What each of these issues demonstrates is how far removed many business owners are from their customers real wants or needs.  Restaurants aren’t just about food, they are also about an enjoyable social experience.  Make sure that you look at your business from your customers’ perspective and determine what needs (other than the obvious) you are really filling for them.

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