Good food matters.
Too bad that’s only one part of the equation for running top-tier restaurants.
If you want guests to rave about your establishment – so much that they become regulars and have to bring along friends and family – you have to go beyond the food.
Understanding the customer experience in total plays a big part, but you likely already knew that. So, how do you go from a spot with good food to an establishment with glowing reviews?
From creating a warm and inviting atmosphere to mastering the art of personalization, we've got you covered. Let's explore how you can turn first-time visitors into loyal patrons and transform your restaurant into a place where they just can't resist coming back.
Why restaurant customer experience matters
If creating remarkable experiences is your priority, then hearing the following from a guest might make you shudder:
“Loved the burger, but my waiter seemed annoyed with me ” “Been dying to try this place but couldn’t make a reservation over the phone 😞” “The host told me it’d just be a few minutes. Been waiting outside for nearly an hour 🙄”
Creating great guest experiences isn’t exactly a controversial take. But in case you aren’t convinced about its significance, let’s jump into a few reasons why it matters.
Why good experiences deliver more revenue
From brand to your bottom line, the return on investment in customer experience is vast and varied. Here are a few specific examples.
Increase revenue: Razor-thin margins are synonymous with this industry, meaning you need to seize any opportunities to earn more revenue. Unsurprisingly, content customers are more willing to open their wallets. Harvard Business Review found that customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the worst past experiences. Boost repeat business and customer loyalty: According to a study by the Temkin Group, loyal customers are 5x more likely to repurchase, 4x more likely to refer your restaurant to others, and 7x more likely to forgive a mistake. If you’re looking for repeat customers and brand advocates, invest in the people who frequent your restaurant. Boost positive reviews and enhance reputation: Your brand can be a helpful way to attract new visitors and repeat customers. Reputation is closely associated with your brand, which means online reviews matter a ton for most restaurants. Did you know that a whopping 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses? Get ahead of the competition: The restaurant industry is notoriously cutthroat. If you’re looking to differentiate from the competition, ensuring you have an enjoyable and unique experience for customers will stimulate repeat visits and increase the cost-per-order for loyal customers. Save on costs: Once your restaurant is known for its exceptional customer experience, it may start to sell itself through online reviews, word-of-mouth and general reputation. Once customers become organic promoters, you likely won’t need to invest as heavily in marketing and advertising and can either invest in other areas or save on costs. How restaurants can improve the customer experience
You have your sights set on curating an industry-leading guest experience at your restaurant.
So, where do you start?
1. Create a warm, welcoming environment
How much of a role interior design and “ambiance” play into your guest experience can be a hotly debated topic. Consider that while it may feel like an extra cost to invest in the “intangible” elements that create an environment in a restaurant, it makes a difference.
Lighting, decor, music, and a customer’s first touch points with staff set the tone. Making a first impression is worth the trouble. Your brand is unique, and the environment you create should be a real-world incarnation of it.
2. Train staff thoroughly
Whether it’s leading with a polite air or knowing the menu well enough to provide excellent recommendations, training staff to be customer-centric is what will take your restaurant from being “good” to “I come back to this place all the time.”
Another way to think about this relates to retaining excellent staff. When you give them the tools to navigate peak service, you’ll help reduce the frustration they feel catering to guests.
3. Personalize the experience
People love custom experiences. According to Forbes,
80% of people are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides a personalized touch. Whether it’s using guests’ names where possible or incorporating preferences into the ordering experience, personalization goes a long way. 4. Prioritize consistency of quality in your menu
Of course, we can’t forget about the bread and butter (pun intended) of restaurants.
Consistency in flavor, quality, and presentation is crucial when putting your restaurant’s best foot forward.
However, there’s a good chance that consistency is already on your mind. Just remember that your menu isn’t set in stone. There’s a good chance that passionate kitchen teams want to shake things up from time to time. Make changes where it makes sense, and don’t be afraid to cut dishes out that don’t stack up to the rest of the menu.
5. Deliver efficient service
No one likes having to wait on the
phone to make a reservation. Or being left high and dry with no idea where they stand in the waitlist queue. The best customer experience is one with minimal friction.
If you want to take it a step further, consider how you can arm your staff with as much relevant information as possible. For example, if you know that the kitchen is understaffed or inventory of key ingredients is low, then you want to help servers and front-of-house staff with the right language to help set expectations with guests.
6. Take customer feedback seriously
One of the best ways to improve the guest experience is to go straight to the source.
When natural, create feedback loops at customer experience touchpoints like making reservations, ordering food online or in-store, and after dining. Pay attention to review sites and make changes so customers don’t ever have to experience repeat negative experiences at your eatery.
7. Maintain cleanliness and hygiene
This one goes without saying. No one wants to eat from a restaurant that doesn’t feel clean, comfortable, and up to sanitation standards. Make sure you’re proactive about health and safety because one bad comment from a customer can tank your reputation.
8. Embrace technology where it makes sense
The restaurant industry is evolving and the use of technology is fueling that change. While the human touch will always be essential in the food industry, technology is a conduit to up-level restaurant operations and customer experience.
There are a ton of new technologies popping up in the restaurant space from POS (point-of-sale) systems and online ordering tech, to operation-optimizing tools and AI-powered phone systems (
check out this post for the full restaurant tech stack).
While it may seem intimidating to invest in new technologies, they can lead to cost savings down the road.
AI-driven phone system, for example. Not only does it free up staff to focus on other work instead of standing by the phone, but it also makes the reservation experience personalized and seamless for customers. 9. Run special events and promotions
After you’ve established an excellent customer experience with consistency, layer in themed promotions, events, and community engagement to add excitement and variety. This will give regulars an excuse to visit
and attract new gusts. Loyalty programs are a great way to make interacting with your restaurant feel fresh to repeat guests. 10. Make your restaurant a great place to work
Happy and supported staff are more likely to act as advocates for your restaurant. Prioritizing the well-being of your employees can help percolate a positive experience down to your customers as well.
Why guest experiences should be core to your business
The truth is that you can’t always control how every guest will perceive their experience. Some just can’t (or refuse to) be pleased, but luckily, this only represents a small percentage of your patrons.
What you can do is look at your guest’s experience from top to bottom. Experiment with stress testing and regularly pick apart where you can make the right changes. By being more proactive and championing an experience they’ll love, you’ll see your restaurants flourish and win loyal diners.
Ready to see how a 24/7 AI answering system helps you create a world-class guest experience? Explore how you can sign up for a free demo and see Slang.ai in action.