7 Tips to Ensure a Quality Customer Experience

Posted on June 7, 2016 by Ash Bennett

While there is undoubtedly a lot of work that goes into setting up a café or restaurant, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels once the doors of your new venture are open to the general public. In fact, that’s when the real work begins. Never have truer words been spoken than “the customer is always right”. Even if you don’t believe they are!

It’s your job to ensure the best possible experience for your customers from the second they walk through the door. You want them to leave with a glowing impression of your business, so they not only spread the word to friends and family, but come back themselves.

So what’s the secret to ensuring standout service? Well, we’ve compiled seven useful tips that act as an excellent checklist for all areas of your business. By following these steps, your customers will feel more like guests in your home and are sure to return again.

1) High Quality
Customers need to feel like they’re getting value for money. That’s not to say your price point has to be low, but that what you’re offering is making it worth their investment. From the overall look of the café or restaurant design, cleanliness and maintenance of utensils and equipment, to the standard of food you’re producing – all are imperative in making sure you leave a good taste in your customers’ mouths.

2) Exceptional Standards
While you may be limited in the quality of food you can deliver, you can certainly ensure all possible measures are taken to guarantee food is correctly stored and safely prepared. For example, be sure to follow proper first-in, first-out (FIFO) rotation with all food items; accurately label and date all products; never serve expired food; avoid cross-contamination with dangerous bacteria or cross-contact with allergens; wash hands before and after handling food products; and prepare and serve foods at correct temperatures.

3) Good Atmosphere
You want your customers to feel at home in your café or restaurant, so it’s important to create a comfortable environment, from the way your place looks to how it feels. To create a great ambiance, start with appropriate lighting. Just as you don’t want the lights to be glaring, you equally don’t want them to be dimly lit. Striking the right balance in tone will create an immediate comfort factor for your customers.

Music is important – from the right genre to the right volume. There’s nothing worse than not being able to hear the person sitting across from you, so make sure the music, while audible, is not blaring out or distracting. Music should be a complement to the atmosphere, not overwhelm it.

Your customers don’t want to leave with frostbite or sweat patches! So maintain a comfortable inside temperature, and make sure there are no drafts or hot spots.

4) Personable Staff
This is the biggie. Your employees represent your brand and are worthy of your time and investment. They need to be clear on what you stand for as a business, and understand that their job is to ensure the best experience for the customer, no matter what. Attentiveness, respect and courtesy need to be practised from the second a customer walks through the door, all the way through to finalising payment on the bill.

Equally important is bringing into play personality and a smile. It leaves a lasting impression and can help customers overlook downfalls in other areas. Make sure your employees listen to the customer, clarify orders, give recommendations on food and beverage choices, and address any concerns or issues politely and promptly.

5) Excellent Etiquette
Don’t you hate it when you’ve no sooner put the last mouthful of food in your mouth, and your plate is whisked away before you can put the fork down? While protocol can vary from place to place, you should train your staff to follow proper table etiquette, especially when it comes to serving food or clearing plates.

If possible, train your staff to remember who has ordered what meal as this helps to create a level of personalisation that is well recognised among customers. Ask if everything is ok with the meal and if anything else is required. Attempt to clear all plates at the same time, unless otherwise requested, so that no single guest is made to feel rushed. Don’t assume the bill is needed straight away, and always ask if desserts or more drinks are wanted.

Never rush customers – the last thing you want is to make them feel part of a factory line or churn-and-burn experience. Just because they’ve finished their food, doesn’t mean they’re ready to leave the establishment, and they should be made to feel welcome to stay and order more drinks, or merely chat for a while.

6) Timely Service
Speed of service is integral to a positive dining experience no matter what type of establishment you run. Most likely customers have pre-conceived expectations as to how long they should wait for food to be served, and therefore it’s important you manage these expectations should you foresee any issues in meeting timeframes. After all, there’s nothing worse than dealing with “hangry” customers!

Sometimes kitchens get slammed. While all efforts should be made to limit this, when it does occur, be honest with your customers and let them know about the expected wait time. Offer something as compensation, such as a free beverage, to help distract them from the wait. Again, excellent service goes a long way to balancing out other downfalls.

7) Good Resolution
Without doubt, there will be times when things go wrong. An incorrect order, or food not cooked to someone’s liking. Regardless, how the issue is dealt with is another deciding factor on whether a customer will consider returning. Make sure your staff knows to stay calm no matter how challenging they find a situation. Set out proper customer complaint procedures so that there is clarity on what measures can be taken to resolve a problem. The effort that is directed at recovering distressed customers can prove worthwhile if you’re able to convince them to return to your establishment in the future.

Want to know if you’re hitting the mark with your customers? Why not introduce customer comment cards? Sure, it can be a little scary to open yourself up for negative feedback, but they’re also a great way of evaluating the customer experience so you know what areas you need to improve on. Typically, they’re set out on the table or delivered at the end of the meal with the bill, and they allow customers to rate the quality of different areas, from food presentation, to menu pricing and staff.

Using the above as your guide to delivering an excellent customer experience will help you ensure your guests feel at home in your café or restaurant, so they’ll be back night after night!

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