It doesn’t matter if you’re a three-hat restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour or a hot dog stand at the local kid’s sports ground, if you get complacent in the hospitality industry your business will slide. Your competitor around the corner - you know, the one that’s been studying your every move - will gain confidence from your recent lack of effort, and start gaining ground. And it’s at this point, that you’ll get a little anxious.
So what happens next? Well, you start to panic and do erratic things like cheap midweek lunch deals and staff cutbacks. Simply put, this is not a good idea.
A proven professional will not lose sight of what they set out to achieve. Just ask one of the biggest celebrity travel chefs Anthony Bourdain, who says: “with steely resolve, a pro, in the face of adversity, will stick it up and redouble his efforts to make the restaurant/bar what he planned it to be all along.”
So where do you start ‘redoubling your efforts? It’s simple – you start with your customers.
Your Customer comes first. And second. And third….
Everyone in the hospitality industry has their own dream that one day they’ll open a unique venue that will set a new benchmark. Often what gets forgotten is the most important ingredient, the customer. Don’t get all wrapped up in the latest sound system or trying to sweet-talk the liquor supplier for a bigger discount – the customer is the only reason we exist. Everyone – from the owner, to wait staff, to even your back of house team – simply must focus on the customer.
Peter Doyle from Sydney’s est. has played a major role in securing multiple awards and hats for the restaurant, and in 2011 personally picked up the Sydney Morning Herald award for Professional Excellence for training, inspiring and nurturing staff (as well as thrilling diners) over three decades.
“My golden rule is that all staff come to work to look after the customer, it does not matter if you are washing lettuce, picking prawns or polishing cutlery, everything stems from that attitude. This attitude must start at the top and be instilled upon everybody every day” – Peter Doyle
Make them feel special
Ok, it might sound cheesy, but it’s probably the most important rule in customer service. Why? Because people want to feel appreciated and valued. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a restaurant or bar and feeling invisible. Waiting around while perfectly able staff discuss their weekend is not impressive to a customer. In fact, it’ll ensure they never come back.
Making an effort to greet a customer makes them feel wanted, respected and acknowledged. The customer is in your venue to spend, the amount that they spend is up to you. Never forget this.
For the love of God, please don’t make them wait
***Rule #2 of customer service should probably be: Don’t leave people waiting. Whether they are waiting to be seated, waiting to order a drink, waiting for their meals, waiting for the bill, waiting for the toilet… waiting is a negative experience. You need to create a sense of urgency amongst your staff. They need to move quickly and freely, smile and enjoy what they are doing.
Go above and beyond. And then do it again
All consumers appreciate you adding a little bit extra, working a little harder, going the extra mile to ensure they’ve had a memorable experience. Make sure the beer is fresh and icy cold, the glassware is sparkling, the toilets are clean and that your food and wine is comforting and exciting. Customers who have a great time are not only going to come back but will bring and tell friends for free, it’s the best marketing bar none.
Take a page out of Massimo Bottura's book...
"Our restaurant is like a family, and we have a family approach for our guests. Without the waiters, the service the customers may not have a good dining experience. They are critical to a restaurant." – Massimo Bottura
Know what you’re doing and selling
Understand the background of the wine you’re serving. Be able to describe the texture of the dish they’ve ordered. Know your stuff. Why? Because the more you know about your job, the better you are at doing it. This will then make you more comfortable whilst serving, increasing your professionalism and giving the customer the perception that they’re being looked after by someone with passion. Knowledge and passion increase your ability to guide your customer, helping them choose the things you want to sell – and this can then increase the average spend per customer and overall profitability.
Always give a fond farewell
And finally, we come to the end. Of both this article and of the customer’s experience. The real test of a restaurant comes at the door. Not purely for when your customers arrive, but when they’re leaving. Make sure you thank the guest, enquire as to their experience and make sure all was satisfactory. Because at the end of the day, your goal is to make sure you see them again.