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  • M. Villarreal

Responding to ever-shifting restaurant guest preferences and expectations

If you're a restaurant owner, there's a good chance that you're well aware of the fact that your guest preferences and expectations change regularly. However, you should know that there are ways you can stay up-to-date without much hassle. In the article you're about to read, we'll show you just how you'll want to respond to ever-shifting restaurant guest preferences and expectations. Hopefully, we can give you a few creative ideas, and you'll have a clear picture of what you can do to improve the satisfaction of your guests!

1. Always Go the Extra Mile

Needless to say, you'll always have to pay attention to what your competition's doing. More precisely, pay close attention to what your competition isn't doing. You'll need to check your neighboring restaurants to see what they're neglecting in their service. Once you clearly understand what that is, you'll want to offer it in your restaurant. For instance, we're talking about something straightforward, such as providing guests with a complimentary bottle of water as soon as they enter, especially if there is a wait. You'll stick out from the crowd without investing much effort.

2. Be Quirky and/or Unique

Here's another thing you might want to do to win your guests' hearts: try to be original with your restaurant signs. For instance, a sign that reads "wait to be seated" sounds bossy, dull, and unoriginal. However, you can try something that sounds a bit quirky. For instance, you can reword the aforementioned sign to say, "please give us a couple of minutes while our spectacular staff prepares your table." Of course, this might sound a bit corny, but remember that it's only an example. You're entirely free to go wild with this one. All in all: a positive first impression is a thing you're after.

3. Seasonal Additions to the Menu

To keep things exciting menu-wise, you'll want to think about adding some seasonal experiences to it. For instance, you might want to add a Christmas special to your restaurant's menu during the holiday season. Also, some restaurants prepare for Thanksgiving by offering some specialties during the period. While we're on the subject of seasons, it might be good to mention that you'll also want to consider offering al fresco dining during the hot summer months. Since long wait times are probably the leading cause of customer irritation, outdoor table service might be your restaurant's ticket to stardom.

4. Appreciate and Reward Your Regulars

If you have regulars who love dining at your restaurant, you'll want to think about how you can make their experience even better and make them feel special. Adding a personal touch won't hurt, and it can make your guest feel more welcome in your establishment creating long-term connections. We're talking about addressing your loyal guests by name, remembering their usual order or other preferences, and so on. That way, your regulars will feel important, and the chances of them saying your usual guests will significantly increase. Nurturing your relationships with loyal customers is the key to success for every business. You can also implement a rewards system. Even a simple gesture like offering a complimentary dessert might go a long way. Lastly, think about introducing a loyalty program to your restaurant. Reward programs, even simple ones, have be proven to highly increase your customer satisfaction.

5. Handle Walk-ins and Waiting Customers Better

As we've already noted, folks simply hate long waiting lines. That's one of the biggest reasons they never return to a particular restaurant, or even complain of social media which can be worse. However, if your place gets plenty of walk-ins, you'll need to set up a waitlist management system to assist you in handling your guests more efficiently and as we have mentioned, find a way to engage and keep your guest. You want to ensure that not a single person leaves your restaurant with a smile on their face. Anyway, think about introducing a waitlist management tool to assist you in maximizing your floor setting and seat as many customers as possible. It's an investment that pays off greatly. Your guests demand accurate wait-time estimates and they don't want to be left to sit in silence unattended to. It has been proven, when a customer is waiting, their perception of time can be as distorted as much as 4x the actual wait time. There is a reason the role is called "host/hostess". Check in with customers, offer an opportunity to get a drink at the bar if possible, but most of all, don't just leave them to sit or stand in a pool of frustration when it can so easily be addressed.

You can even reach out to work with a professional training company to help train your staff of the "soft-skills" of business. This could be anything from customer engagement, customer service, leadership training or even the impact of customer connections on their wallet and yours. When you work with a professional training company, there is a simple and consistent message delivered through training that can get everyone on the same page. Often, these companies will work around your schedule.

Additionally, consider re-arranging your tables to fit larger or smaller parties. Your guests will love the feeling of having their specific needs catered to. Moving experts from suggest always having a few backup tables and chairs in storage. Placing excess inventory in storage is simple, and you can use the extra tables and seating for special events. If you are in a pinch for time, you can hire professional movers to bring your inventory from storage for the occasions when you need it. This way, you'll never be unprepared for large, walk-in groups, and you will be ready to meet your restaurant guest preferences and expectations without hesitation.

6. Ensure that Your Staff Knows Everything about Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

A knowledgeable staff never turned down anyone. Make sure that your servers know the menu by heart. They'll need to provide your guests with all the necessary information. For instance, they'll need to know which meals are vegan, nut-free, or gluten-free without thinking about the famous "let me check with the kitchen excuse." If your staff begins to use debatable excuses, it will most probably instill doubt in your guests. Additionally, it might be good to know that some menus let guests see all the ingredients by scanning the QR code next to the item on the menu. Lastly on this subject, DON'T allow them to lie or make things up... it could cost you so much more than a bad review. EMPOWER your staff to get the right answers and know it is ok to ask if they don't know. When your staff fears asking questions of leadership, it can create havoc.

7. Allow Your guests to Sample Beer, Wine or Hors d'oeuvres.

We'll be quick here since this one requires no lengthy explanation. If your guests ask for a sample of wine or beer, don't hesitate to bring them one.

If possible, consider offering them these samples BEFORE they ask. That way, they'll know they're getting extraordinary (in the most positive sense) customer service.

It has been shown, when provided a sample, over 85% of customers will then order a drink or food, even if it's NOT what they were given as a sample. Think about that number! Who doesn't like increased revenues?

8. Use Social Media to Engage Your Guests

When you are introducing new menu items, you can generate additional buzz on social media. You can even get your guests involved by encouraging them to post their suggestions on social media. Having open lines of communication with your customers is a great way to stay in touch with the constant changes in restaurant guest preferences and expectations. Not only will you make your guests feel involved and special, but you'll also do good marketing for your place. That all said, don't just make it about product or service. Make it about the customer as well. Ask questions, use quotes, provide reviews and show you are willing to engage with them, and not just trying to make a sale over social media.

9. Keep the Place Looking and Smelling Clean

Well, this one goes without saying (you would think)! That's right; you'll need to keep your place clean. We're not talking solely about your guest area; we're talking about your kitchen too. Your guests will undoubtedly appreciate dining in a place that's sparkly clean. You can consider power washing, especially after busy weekends in outdoor common areas for your guests.

Additionally, ensure your commercial kitchen vent hood exhaust system is clean and operating effectively. When you have build up on your vent hood filters, in your duct system or even up on your rooftop fan, not only does it impact the kitchen, but it also impacts the customer experience. Smells, haziness and smoke don't magically stop at your kitchen door. Sometime it takes going beyond just NFPA 96 Standards to provide the right environment for both employees and customers. Many professional commercial services companies that provide vent hood system cleaning will come by and inspect your system for free and give you a free estimate.

Lastly, be PROACTIVE. You know as well as I do, regardless of how much you stay on top of it throughout the year, our employees just don't clean as well, or in areas, where a professional deep cleaning company would. Professionals that provide commercial deep clean services can prepare your restaurant for the season or year ahead and take all the worry off your shoulders.

The Bottom Line

We've given you 9 actionable tips which can help you stay up-to-date with restaurant guest preferences and expectations. You're well aware that any small additions to your restaurant service can go a long way to ensure customer satisfaction. We're sure this will help you earn some loyal guests and that your restaurant will soon become a household name in your town!

If you would like to learn more about Cornerstone Commercial Services and how we can help your business, call us today! 1-800-274-3905

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