In the olden days, ordinary people went to restaurants for dinner as a treat on special occasions. Patrons dressed to the nines and many restaurants provided true white-glove treatment. And, of course, when going out only once in a while, people were happy to spend a bit more than average.
(They were eating meat loaf and frozen veggies the rest of the time!)
But now, dining out is so commonplace, so easily accessible, that both customers have grown largely complacent and restaurant staff has followed suit.
What would happen if, on the business end of things, we spent a bit more time making the experience something special for our customers?
Whether your patrons are just stopping in for a quick takeaway bite between meetings or a fancy sit-down dinner, I would imagine a few simple gestures can make a huge difference.
With that in mind, here are six tiny things you can do RIGHT NOW to hugely improve your sales:
1. If you’re a fast-food restaurant or somewhere with self-serve drinks, keep the station clean. This area is clearly visible when people walk in, and it’s somewhere that they interact with directly. If there’s melted ice all over the counters, sticky soda residue everywhere, a mess of tops and straws strewn about…that’s not very appealing. Any effort made to present your restaurant and business as organized, tidy and clean is well worth it.
2. Smile. Yes, employees need to be trained to do this — and it doesn’t matter what type of restaurant you operate. Even if servers are generally pleasant, a simple, genuine smile goes a really long way where customer service is concerned. A smile can make a nice gesture sweeter and diffuse the tensest situations. Trust me — this is one unwritten rule that should definitely be explicit in a restaurant’s policies.
3 and 4. The next two things you can do actually happen at the table — and they both involve treating customers more like humans and less like transactions. Don’t stand over customers when you’re taking their orders — meet them at eye level.
(And look them in the eye when you take the orders! And SMILE!)
Once you’re down at their physical level, connect with them on a personal level. Don’t just try to upsell them on every course; focus on what they’re telling you they need. As you take orders, consider making the process more of a conversation than a checklist of things to sell. Your attentiveness and engagement will pay off.
5. Check the bathrooms frequently. Not just at the beginning and end of service for the night — I’m talking every hour. This is especially important on your busiest nights, when your restroom can look more like Grand Central Station than a bathroom.
6. And finally, you can literally open the door to more business and higher-dollar tickets. There are few things a customer likes better than feeling welcome, so consider encouraging their generosity of wallet by showing your generosity of spirit.
How much energy does it take for a member of the host staff — or, even better, a manager — to greet customers with an open door, smile and friendly hello? It doesn’t take much. Beginning their experience with this gesture of goodwill is a small step to an overall more positive experience.
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