How to Develop Better Restaurant Customer Service

by Beth Richards; Updated September 26, 2017
Waiter serving wine

Customer service is key to most successful businesses, but especially in restaurants and food service. With a limited profit margin and tons of competition, restaurants need to keep customers happy to keep them coming back. Here are some ideas develop good customer service.

Step 1

Make your plan for good customer service. Identify key elements specific to your restaurant style. Make sure the wait staff knows the menu, has tasted the specials, and understands the preparation and ingredients. Categorize quality and service for your type of food business. List your objectives and your customers' needs. Income from tips should not be a factor. Good service involves implementing quality of effort over quantity. Successful restaurants limit the number of tables a server can work, usually to three or four at a time, to ensure the customer gets proper attention and the server doesn't become overwhelmed. Have employees pace their service based on the customers' needs. If a customer is in a hurry, push the food through and bring things quickly, but not rushed. If guests want to enjoy a relaxing meal, have servers bring things in an attentive, but slower-paced, delivery. It's important to build a relationship with each customer on every visit and make them feel like the restaurant cares about them.

Step 2

Post your customer service goals and policies in the kitchen or a break area where every employee can see them.

Step 3

Identify key areas where training is needed. Employees should be made aware of customer service goals and be prepared and trained to follow through with implementing them every day. New employees should be trained individually. Before sending an employee out solo, they should work with someone with experience in the same job. Hiring people who are nice is more important than hiring those with experience. Employees who treat people kindly build a good atmosphere. People can learn a job, but it is hard to teach someone to be nice. Servers should be trained to ask specific questions about the service or quality of a dish, rather than a general, "How's everything?" Communicate the importance of excellent customer service with every level of staff. Everyone should be involved in pleasing the customer, whether they have direct contact with them or not. Schedule weekly meetings to touch base with all employees, asking for input on how to serve customers better.

Step 4

Make a good first impression. Anyone working at the front entrance should greet each customer with a positive attitude. Even if there is an hour wait to be seated, the way the delay is explained to customers will set the tone for their dining experience. Offer small free samples or appetizers during the delay, or have greeters direct waiting guests to a comfortable area until their table is ready. Computer reservation systems can be used to store customer information and are great tools for remembering repeat customers. The system can also be used for follow-up and promotional opportunities with regular customers. Have employees engage waiting guests in simple conversation. Encourage greeters to try to acknowledge people who have been in before.

Step 5

Empathize with the customer. Everyone from the busboy to the assistant manager should always be prepared to deal with issues from a customer's perspective.

Step 6

Rectify complaints promptly. Only one out of every 26 customers with a problem will complain about it, and 91 percent of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again, according to the TrainingZone.co.uk Most guests, however, will return if you turn an unpleasant experience into a good one. While it may seem contradictory, having servers ask guests if there is anything they don't like opens a dialog to correct something that might otherwise go unmentioned. Training should approach this technique in a positive way.

Tips

  • Keep your employees happy, too. In addition to limiting the number of tables each server can work at one time, build team effort. Make sure employees watch out for each other and step outside their role to help someone else. Servers can help clear tables, greeters can wash dishes, and managers should be ready to tackle any job when things get busy. A positive work atmosphere builds good employee attitudes, which are reflected in the care and service given to customers.

About the Author

Beth Richards, a freelance writer since 2002, writes about health and draws from her 25 years as a licensed dispensing optician. She has authored several books, writes for national magazines including "Country Living" and "Organic Family" and is a health and wellness features writer for several publications. She is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Luca Francesco Giovanni Bertolli/iStock/Getty Images