How to Create a Customer-Friendly Culture

Few restaurants can survive on a stream of one-off customer visits. Sustaining a profitable operation begins and ends with customer retention.

2014 Gallup research found that for casual dining restaurants, “engaged” customers, those who have an emotional attachment to your restaurant, make 56 percent more visits per month than disengaged customers. Simply put, happy diners = more dollars toward your bottom line.

A drool-worthy menu and Instagram-friendly food only go so far toward developing restaurant customer loyalty. In fact, most customers’ top reason for not returning to a restaurant is that they dealt with an indifferent employee.

Front-of-house staff are responsible for making customers’ first and last impressions of the restaurant experience positive. Here are a few training tips to guarantee that your employees know how to get it right:

  • Instill comprehensive knowledge: Wait staff’s knowledge should go beyond the daily specials and the standing menu (though servers need to be experts on those, too.) Educate front-of-house employees on the restaurant’s history, concept and other aspects of your operations so they can confidently interact with customers. When a server doesn’t have an immediate answer to a question, it should be their mission to find one and not leave it at “I don’t know.”
  • Sweat the small stuff: Making sure the kitchen doesn’t forget that extra dressing on the side or pointing a lost customer toward the restrooms may seem like small blips on the dining experience radar, but they’re essential to creating restaurant customer loyalty. Train staff to be proactive and helpful at all times so minor details don’t become major disappointments.
  • Make service a team sport: Just because many restaurants assign specific clusters of tables to each server doesn’t mean employees should turn a blind eye to customers outside of their designated zone. If a customer at another server’s table is clearly in need of a drink refill or has a question – and their server is MIA – an available colleague should step in, no matter what.
  • Take blame gracefully: In the event of a botched order or other mishap, front-of-house employees are the first to hear about it. As the main faces of your restaurant, servers and hosts need to perfect the art of the apology. Make sure your staff understands how to stay calm and respectfully diffuse a tough situation. Enforce procedures for notifying other employees about errors to ensure they don’t become repeat offenses.
  • Push for professional communication: Customers don’t need to know about the cashier’s recent breakup. Front-of-house staff should know that the restaurant isn’t a place to air their personal problems, or over-share with innocent guests. The same rules apply to colleague interactions, too. Employees who gossip mid-shift are more likely to lose focus on what really matters: creating a memorable guest experience.

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