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Great customer service is a core capability of every successful restaurant — it’s the “secret sauce” that keeps customers coming back for more. When your employees provide a top-notch experience, each delicious meal is even more enjoyable for guests. Over the long term, exceptional customer service can lead to word-of-mouth advertising, personal recommendations, and a large, loyal customer base.

Looking to improve the service at your restaurant? Start by establishing customer service guidelines; best practices help your staff deliver a consistent customer experience.

Why restaurants need specific customer service guidelines

When it comes to service, consistency is critical. Your guests should receive the same great customer service whether they come in for a weekend dinner or an after-work happy hour. Next to impressive meals, it’s the best way to boost customer satisfaction and customer retention. After all, guests are looking for more than great food; they want to have a dining experience that’s better than eating at home.

Here’s the challenge: Excellent customer service means different things to different people and establishments. One restaurant might be satisfied with friendly banter; another might prefer highly attentive servers who anticipate diners’ every need.

That’s where customer service standards come in — they tell employees exactly what you expect of them. Clear guidelines empower each person on the team to provide a uniform customer experience, all while eliminating guesswork and keeping everyone accountable.

For restaurant owners and managers, a well-defined framework makes it easier to evaluate staff performance and provide effective coaching as needed. Once you build a knowledge base, it can form the foundation for staff training. That way, new workers have the right customer service skills from day one.

9 customer service guidelines to include in your restaurant

While every restaurant will have a unique set of customer service standards, there are a few practices every establishment should adopt. These guidelines can help any food-service business provide excellent customer service and build customer loyalty.

1. Pay attention to your customers’ needs

Customers’ opinions can make or break a restaurant business. Get ahead of the curve by asking for customer feedback on a regular basis. Drop by tables, put out comment cards, and ask guests to leave reviews online. Any time you hear customer complaints, take action to investigate and fix the problem.

Take note of customer inquiries, too; they’re a window into what guests want most. If you’ve noticed an increase in customer support calls regarding gluten-free meals, you might consider labeling these items on your menu or adding allergen-related language to your website. By meeting customers’ needs, you can provide good customer service and reduce the workload for your support team.

It’s also important to monitor what customers are saying online. Set a Google alert for your restaurant name, and spend time reading reviews online and on social media. Pay close attention to poor reviews — they can provide valuable insight into the things you can improve.

2. Clean up your act

It goes without saying that a restaurant kitchen should have high cleanliness standards, but the front of house is just as important. Every inch of your restaurant should look and feel clean so guests can dine with confidence. That includes the entryway, host station, dining area, hallways, and bathrooms. 

Ways to maintain a clean restaurant and meet customer expectations include:

  • Hiring extra bussers to clean tables quickly
  • Doing a quick floor cleaning during table turnover
  • Disinfecting surfaces multiple times during a shift
  • Wiping the sides of tables and chairs to prevent sticky surfaces
  • Cleaning windows and glass surfaces

3. Provide prompt service

Whether guests are waiting for their seats, their meals, or their delivery orders, prompt service is a must. That doesn’t mean you have to be lightning-fast — the appropriate timeframe depends on the situation and the restaurant. People who are waiting for a takeout order appreciate fast service; diners enjoying a five-course meal need a bit more time to savor each dish.

To help employees nail the timing, update your customer service standards with steps and tips. For example, you might ask them to watch tables closely and clear the plates as soon as the last person stops eating. It’s also useful to implement strategies to support fast service, such as:

  • Setting up a dedicated delivery packaging station
  • Taking reservations to avoid long lines at the entrance
  • Using integrated technology to streamline operations
  • Forecasting order volume to ensure adequate ingredient prep

4. Handle mistakes with care

Mistakes happen in every business. The good news? Customers usually judge your restaurant not on those mistakes but on how you handle them. If your support team addresses the issue quickly, apologizes genuinely, and finds a way to make the situation right, guests are more likely to come back.

Use the same approach when you’re responding to online reviews. Stay professional, take responsibility, and explain how you’re rectifying the issue. When other customers read your response, the initial negative feedback won’t have as big an impact. It can even help you reach new loyal customers — after all, if you provide good customer service online, you’ll probably do the same in store.

5. Serve food at the correct temperature

Temperature affects food quality and food safety, which means it’s essential to customer satisfaction and good customer service. Try these tips to help your kitchen staff and servers maintain the right heating or cooling level during food prep, storage, and service:

  • Equip the kitchen with warming and cooling appliances
  • Refine the plating process so it’s quick and efficient
  • Set the plates out for pickup just before you call for a runner

6. Improve order accuracy

When a guest places an order, they expect it to be accurate. If they have to send the food back and wait for a replacement, it can damage customer satisfaction for the entire table. Prevent these issues by training your staff to take detailed orders and verify them on the spot. Kitchen workers, meanwhile, should be reading each order carefully.

Accountability is key to improving order accuracy. Keep track of every dish that goes back to the kitchen; if you notice that the issues tend to originate with a specific staff member, more training may be necessary to improve customer service performance.

7. Institute a customer loyalty program

Your regulars deserve excellent customer service; reward them by creating a customer loyalty program. Each time a member orders a meal, either in person or online, they can earn special benefits. You might try rewards such as:

  • Free coffee with the purchase of 10
  • Perks such as priority reservations for loyalty members
  • Invitations to exclusive events
  • Points that are redeemable for discounts or merchandise
  • Free items or special discounts for hitting a spend limit
  • Loyalty tiers that offer upgraded rewards
  • Discounts in return for customer referrals

These programs give guests an extra incentive to choose your restaurant, creating more opportunities to build a strong customer relationship.

8. Don’t forget digital customer service

Before they choose your restaurants, guests might look at your Google reviews, scroll through your social media pages, or seek out customer feedback in online forums. While your customer service team can’t control the narrative, they can contribute to it.

These strategies can help you provide effective digital customer support:

  • Answer questions on social media quickly.
  • Respond professionally to negative and positive reviews.
  • Comment on posts about your restaurant.

You can also take a proactive approach. If you see trends in customer feedback, find a solution — then, post about it on your Facebook or Instagram page. Tap into Grubhub’s free social media resources to reach customers. Keep it positive: “You’ve been asking for a faster delivery option, and we heard you! We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve joined Grubhub to offer quick delivery any time of day.”

9. Have a great attitude

If you’ve ever been to a restaurant with warm, friendly staff, you know attitude can turn a great meal into a memorable experience. Positivity is equally important for every member of the team — it should radiate into every customer interaction. When a guest knows to expect a genuine welcome, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer.

10. Partner with brands you trust

Your restaurant’s reputation is formed beyond your brick-and-mortar location. That’s why it’s important to partner with brands that share your same passion for great customer service. Grubhub helps bring transparency to the delivery process, updating diners where their order is every step of the way. Grubhub delivery gives diners updates when their order is received, being prepared, and out for delivery. This allows your customers to track when they can expect their meal.

The Grubhub Guarantee helps protect our restaurant partners’ reputation by going above and beyond to give your customers the best online ordering experience by guaranteeing on-time delivery and the best prices. If any order placed on our platform does not meet these guarantees, we will compensate diners with Grubhub Guarantee Perks. All Grubhub Guarantee Perks are 100% funded by Grubhub and not by the restaurant.

Deliver the best customer experience with Grubhub

Delicious food and Instagram-worthy aesthetics set the stage for a great meal; great customer service takes the experience to the next level. To turn casual diners into happy customers, establish a set of guidelines to help your employees, contact center, and customer service team provide top-notch service delivery.

While you’re at it, remember to include delivery guidelines in your strategy. Delivery and takeout are extensions of your business, so they deserve equal care and attention. Grubhub can help — our detailed order tracking and built-in support tools provide a high-quality customer service experience every time.Ready to upgrade your restaurant delivery services? Get started with Grubhub today.