21 Great Customer Service Tips for Restaurants and Bars
January 23, 2020
Running a successful restaurant, brewery, or bar requires excelling in a number of areas in addition to providing quality food.
You can ensure top-notch customer service by establishing comprehensive customer experience protocol, training staff in all procedures, and offering discounts and promotions that will make your customers feel appreciated and eager to return. Besides, unhappy customers aren’t likely to keep their bad experiences to themselves. Preserving your spotless reputation is all the more reason to mind your customer service p’s and q’s.
21 Customer Service Tips for Restaurants, Bars, and Breweries
Customer service starts at the top. Setting an example for your staff, asking the right restaurant interview questions, and keeping your team accountable are all pivotal to a great customer service experience.
Here are 21 tips to help your restaurant or bar offer industry-leading service:
1. Ace Your First Impression
Your guests’ dining experience begins the moment they first interact with your business. This may be while they’re looking you up online or when they first walk in off the street. Either way, they’re forming their opinions well before they receive their meal or drinks.
Make an effort to make them feel welcome and excited to visit your establishment by actively managing your business’ online reputation and real-life curb appeal. This will keep new customers coming through your doors, ready to be delighted.
2. Connect to Your Customers with Social Media
Tend to your restaurant social media presence regularly. Especially if your target demographics include Millennials or even younger age groups. Your customers will appreciate your brand’s personality if you take the time to maintain it and use it to bolster your customer relationships.
3. Stop Reinventing the Wheel
Establish concrete protocols for your business so all of your employees, from hosts to bartenders, to bussers, feel prepared for just about any situation. This can help you proactively maintain a comfortable and low-stress environment and pass those good vibes along to your guests. This is much easier than frantically scrambling to react when problems arise.
4. Don’t Overbook Reservations
Customers make reservations for a reason. If you’ve got a well-oiled system, you can rely on it to maintain order in your kitchen as well as your dining room. Be careful not to book reservations too close together so your well-prepared customers aren’t left hungry and waiting.
5. Make Suggestions
Bartenders should feel free to make drink suggestions to uncertain or indecisive patrons. This shows them they’re more than just a face in a crowd, and that pleasing them is the goal of your overall business.
6. Check In With Patrons
Make sure servers are checking on their tables consistently throughout their meal. Water glasses should stay full, and diners should have the opportunity to order additional items or a new drink without having to wait or flag a staff member down.
7. Show Your Appreciation
Everybody likes to feel special once in a while. Offer a complimentary drink or meal for regulars from time to time or look into creating a restaurant customer loyalty program. A little bit can go a long way.
8. Avoid Interrupting
Nobody likes to be interrupted. A surefire way to make sure a customer is uncomfortable or downright angry is to be pushy about taking orders. Try to feel for an appropriate moment to ask any questions you need to ask and take care to be extra polite!
9. Ask for Customer Feedback
All feedback is valuable. Good feedback, especially the public kind on restaurant review sites, can let you and others know the strong points of your restaurant, brewery, or bar. On a smaller scale, servers should consistently be asking their tables how their meal is going to make sure they can fix whatever issues are possible in the moment.
You can also ask your customers for feedback by including a note on their bill to fill out a survey or rate you on yelp. You can solicit feedback on social media by holding a contest or giveaway, or you could set up a strategically placed comment box near your exit.
10. Make an Appearance
As a restauranteur, you can make a great impression on your customers just by being present. Make a point to visit the dining area from time to time to meet your customers. This will give you a great opportunity to show your patrons how invested you really are, and field any questions or feedback they may have.
11. Staff Communication
Everybody has different levels of communication skills, especially staff that may be newer to the workforce. Add specific communication and conflict resolution components to your onboarding process and restaurant training manual to help your staff know not only what to do in a troubling scenario, but what to say. They should be able to give informed, polite responses to customer questions, and stay cordial with their team members without breaking a sweat.
12. Don’t Pick Favorites
Bartenders should show the same level of attention and consideration to all customers, especially when the bar seems inundated. A safe bet is to try to serve customers in the order they came.
13. Use a POS System to Manage Customer Relationships
Some POS systems allow you to enter notes about customers’ preferences, dietary restrictions, and other important details. Find out if your bar or restaurant’s POS system allows you to use these tools to offer these kinds of curated and customized experiences.
14. Apologize and Offer Reimbursements
Nobody’s perfect. You’re bound to encounter an unhappy customer from time to time, so it’s in your best interest to handle their complaints gracefully and appropriately. Make sure you have a script for these types of situations and train employees to use it.
The important thing is to act quickly to rectify the situation, and if this is happening in person, remember to listen, apologize, and stay calm throughout your interaction. If it’s appropriate, offer a reimbursement, replacement meal, or a deal to be used in the future.
15. Don’t Rush Guests
A guest should never be made to feel like an inconvenience or that they’ve overstayed their welcome. Servers should avoid taking plates until the customer has pushed it away and they should never rush their guests to pay their bill, even if their shift is about to end.
16. Respond to Negative Online Reviews
We’ve already touched on this, but negative reviews are every bit as valuable as positive ones as long as you view them as an opportunity to grow as a business and repair or rebuild a customer relationship. If a negative review comes through online, you can also take it as an opportunity to show the public your customer service expertise.
17. Don’t Turn Your Back
It may feel like a quick, unassuming break, but bartenders should never stand with their backs facing the patrons. They may interpret this action as intentional rudeness.
18. Don’t Make Them Wait
Your patrons visit your business because they are ready to eat or drink. Make sure you have enough staff to keep the drinks being made or the meals flowing to the tables. Speedy service is important to any customer’s experience.
19. Online Ordering
Give customers the option to order ahead of time, whether that means dine-in, takeout, or delivery. Convenience is becoming more and more valuable and will go a long way in their eyes. An online ordering system can help your business manage orders efficiently.
20. Offer Free Wifi
It feels like we all run on data these days. Offering free WiFi, or even installing some additional wall sockets could be the reason a customer decides to come back.
21. Be Responsible
If your establishment serves alcohol, you’re not just encouraged, but obligated to avoid overserving customers, and prevent already inebriated patrons from entering in the first place. This is important to their health and safety as well as that of you and your other customers.
In general, be kind, considerate, etc. Don’t make a bigger scene
Treat Your Customers as Your Would Want to Be Treated
Just like there are many components to running a successful restaurant, brewery, or bar, there are many components to great customer service. This is one place the golden rule really does ring true. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated – with empathy and respect – and they’ll leave your establishment feeling glad they came.
Additional Resources for Restaurant and Bar Owners:
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