When you ask someone about their experience at a restaurant, sure, you’re asking about the taste and quality of the food, but you likely want to know about the whole experience from the moment they got to the restaurant until they left. This whole journey is known as the customer experience.
If restaurants make money from their food, why should they be concerned with providing quality customer experiences? Isn’t good food enough? The truth is, it’s not.
As a restaurant owner, you have to be concerned with every detail that can influence the customer experience. This guide will take you into the world of dining where flavor combines with emotion making every little count, from table arrangements to customer service.
Understanding your customers
What is customer experience in a restaurant?
Customer experience in a restaurant is the cluster of feelings and impressions diners have during their visit. It goes beyond serving a good meal. This is where a customer visit is turned into a customer experience. It’s about creating a memorable experience from the moment a diner enters the restaurant, is greeted with a warm smile, enjoys their preferred meal, and savors every bite of their food, until they leave happily. This positive experience creates good memories and encourages customers to return and recommend your restaurant.
The profound value of understanding your customers
Understanding your customers is the first phase of understanding your business. Many smart restaurants have started breaking the myth that every establishment should be focused on a defined group of customers. In the modern world, all guests are diners, and you need to plan on how to serve them better by knowing their preferences and desires. You should also be ready to fulfill their unique expectations.
Customer personas are not just demographic data; they are lively profiles that capture the essence of your typical guests. By creating detailed customer personas, you can not only get to know them better but also tailor your offerings and create a personalized experience for each of them.
The importance of the customer experience
Why is customer experience in restaurants important?
Customer experience isn’t just a practice; it’s the lifeline of your restaurant’s success and has a direct impact on the livelihood of your business. An accumulation of good customer experiences creates a loyal customer base. This loyal customer base will act as brand advocates and begin word-of-mouth marketing for your business. This will not only attract new guests but also ensure existing guests return for the same service.
Beyond the plate: Creating lifelong patrons
Exceptional customer experiences are more than just temporary moments; they create lifelong connections. Build a business environment where the experience goes beyond the plate and the dining room becomes a happy memory for your guests. By creating unique and memorable dining experiences, you can turn one-time visitors into loyal patrons who return again and again, bringing friends and family with them.
Strategies for improving customer experience
Maintain a calm and welcoming environment
The atmosphere of your restaurant sets the stage for the entire experience, and creating the perfect restaurant atmosphere is an art that involves every sensory detail. The right temperature, ambient noise, pleasant scents, natural lighting, and soothing music all come together to enhance the dining experience. Lighting plays a crucial role, too. Natural light or candlelight can evoke positive emotions, setting the stage for a memorable meal. Even the type of music played can influence guests’ dining choices.
There’s more you can do to make your restaurant stand out. Consider adding convenient plug points at tables for guests on the go who need to charge their devices. For quick-service restaurants, a large customer display system ensures no one has to wait long for their order.
Outdoor dining spaces, like rooftop or garden seating, provide a unique and relaxing atmosphere for guests to enjoy their meals. Finally, pay attention to the layout. Organize counters, tables, and menu boards to ensure a smooth flow of guests, so no one’s dining experience is disrupted.
Build a happy team for happy customers
Every restaurant’s heartbeat is its team and their commitment. Build a team from the top with strong and inspired leadership that sets the tone. Equip your staff with the right tools and knowledge, from the kitchen to the front of the house. Automate certain repetitive tasks of your employees with a smart RMS, allowing your team to focus on whats more important. Recognize their achievements and reward them with appreciation, awards, or other incentives. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open for feedback, ideas, and suggestions, too.
Above all, remember the power of a smile; it’s not just an expression but a key ingredient in creating a welcoming and memorable guest experience. A happy team creates happy customers, making them more likely to return and recommend your restaurant.
Leverage technology for seamless service
In today’s modern dining landscape, technology is your ally in creating an exceptional and efficient restaurant experience. Harness the power of technology to streamline your service and make the dining experience smoother and more efficient.
- Contactless ordering through a QR menu
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a new era of contactless dining. By providing your customers with a QR code with a digital menu, they can simply scan it with their smartphones, browse your offerings, and place their orders without any need for a physical menu or human intervention.
- Mobile apps for stewards
Equip your staff with a restaurant order-taking app integrated with a restaurant POS that enables them to collect orders from guests. This technology not only reduces order processing time and minimizes errors but also ensures your waitstaff is always attentive to your customers, improving service efficiency and overall satisfaction.
- Online payment and checkout
Customers today appreciate the convenience of settling their bills and checking out without waiting for a physical bill. Provide them with the option to pay and provide feedback online. In this way, the checkout process is simplified, and guests have an open channel to share their experiences and suggestions.
- Omnichannel experiences
Serve your online customers as well as you serve your in-person customers. Set up your own online ordering app or choose to integrate with popular food aggregators like Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, and others. Having your own restaurant-specific app provides more control over the customer experience, while partnering with aggregators can expand your reach to a broader audience.
Listen to your customers and delight them with rewards and loyalty
In the competitive restaurant industry, customer retention and satisfaction define how successful you’ll be in your business. Use smart restaurant CRM software to engage with your customers and delight them through personalized marketing and loyalty programs. Engage your customers directly via channels like WhatsApp and SMS, providing them with exclusive promotions, discounts, and event updates. Encourage customers to provide feedback on their meal and service and act on the same to make incremental changes and show your commitment to your customers.
Craft a menu that speaks for itself
Craft a well-structured menu that highlights your top-selling items and the chef’s specialties. Accompany each item with a brief description and nutritional details to inform your guests about the dish. This approach ensures your menu not only delights taste buds, but also keeps your customers informed and engaged, creating a dining experience they’ll cherish.
Prepare for no-shows and more-shows
The restaurant business is really unpredictable, and the number of diners can fluctuate unexpectedly. Handling both no-shows and unexpected surges in walk-ins requires a well-planned strategy that can be the difference between a chaotic evening and a smoothly managed dining experience. Define a detailed production plan daily in your restaurant based on historic sales data and be prepared for the demand for items or service. Install a kitchen display system in your kitchen so your chef can see the priority of orders and operate efficiently. Train your staff to handle multiple operations in the restaurant so stewards can handle online orders during peak hours, and cashiers can know how the order processing is going in the kitchen. Working on such strategic approaches ensures your restaurant can provide a consistent, quality dining experience, whether the night is slow or bustling with reservations.
It is clear that recognizing the importance of the customer experience and applying smart strategies will enable your restaurant to increase its profile. As you plan on implementing these strategies, take into account how a smart restaurant management system can help you manage your operations and enhance the overall customer experience. The journey towards an unforgettable dining experience has just begun, and your restaurant’s future looks more promising than ever.