Simple Ways to Elevate a Restaurant Customer’s Experience

When a restaurant's customer experience is exceptional, people will return. But if it leaves them wanting more, they’ll dine somewhere else.
When a restaurant’s customer experience is exceptional, people will return. But if it leaves them wanting more, they’ll dine somewhere else.

A good restaurant requires more than good food. You also have to pay attention to the overall dining experience. If the experience is good, people will return over and over again. But if it leaves them wanting more, they’ll find somewhere else to dine.

The Importance of a Good Customer Experience

The idea of restaurant customer experience (CX) might sound a little mythical, but it’s actually a very tangible and integral element of growing a successful restaurant. If you ever doubt how important CX is, just consider statistics such as these:

  • An increase of one star in the Yelp rating of your restaurant can mean a 5 to 9 percent boost in sales.
  • 60 percent of diners read reviews before going out for a meal.
  • 25 percent more people use consumer review sites like Yelp or OpenTable than those who rely on professional food critic reviews.
  • 75 percent of consumers say they won’t visit a restaurant that has negative reviews related to its cleanliness.

Reviews matter. And if you want reviews to be positive, you need to satisfy and even thrill your restaurant customer with great CX. There’s simply no replacement.

Tips for Elevating Your Customer Experience

Creating a compelling customer experience isn’t rocket science, but it does require some planning, effort, and consistent execution. Here are several tips.

1. Hire happy and outgoing servers.

Do you know what word is mentioned far more than any other in online restaurant reviews? It’s the word “service.”

In a textual analysis of 331,920 online reviews of over 1,300 different restaurants, this was the word that appeared more frequently than any other. And guess who has the biggest impact on service in the minds of diners? It’s your servers.

While it’s more challenging than ever to find servers and restaurant staff, it’s still very important to be discerning with the people you select. When given the choice, you want happy and outgoing people who are good at building relationships. For many, having a good server is almost as important as having a good meal.

2. Prioritize comfort.

Comfort goes a long way in a restaurant.

Ideally, people would be so relaxed that they feel like they’re in their own kitchens or homes. There are countless ways to extend comfort, but here are some ideas:

  • Use low, warm lighting whenever possible (especially around dinner time in upscale restaurants).
  • Make sure the temperature is just right.
    • You can’t please everyone, but you do want to avoid temperature extremes that make people shiver or sweat.
    • Studies suggest 69 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for comfort in dining.
  • If you have outdoor seating areas, make sure you’re controlling the elements as much as possible.

3. Remember diner details.

When asked what they want restaurants to know and remember, 65 percent of customers say their “name,” while 50 percent say their “favorite drink.”

In other words, customers don’t want to feel like just another number. They want some personal attention when they walk through the door.

Much of this onus falls on your waitstaff. Train them to ask for and remember names, as well as drink orders and other details. You might even want to adopt a system that allows you to record this information for future access.

4. Offer fast service.

Fast and efficient service is a must — particularly when serving breakfast or lunch. (People are willing to wait a few extra minutes around dinner time — particularly when appetizers and alcohol are involved.)

Train your entire staff, from the kitchen to the waiters, to prioritize efficiency. Reducing your wait time by even three or four minutes is enough to prevent a restaurant customer from growing frustrated.

5. Provide entertainment while waiting.

If your restaurant is fortunate enough to have a line out the door on most evenings, you must walk a very fine line.

On the one hand, a wait like this serves as a form of social proof and adds to the appeal and reputation of your restaurant. On the other hand, you must be cautious not to frustrate people and turn them away.

Think about creative ways you can entertain restaurant customers while they wait. This could include having a separate bar area, TVs, music, and entertainment, lounge areas, or even toys and play areas for kids.

Adding It All Up

When it’s all said and done, your restaurant’s objective is to serve good food while giving people an enjoyable experience that they’re likely to speak positively about after going home.

If you can accomplish this, you’ve done your job. (And you’ll have no trouble growing your restaurant.)

Here’s to creating happy restaurant customers!

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