Giving great customer service is essential to the success of any business, especially restaurants. How well your staff makes guests welcome and comfortable determines how long your restaurant lasts. But great service doesn’t happen overnight; it requires strategy, training sessions, and continuous supervision over an extended period of time.
Some owners and managers make the mistake of waiting too long to make changes. Once sales slump, one no longer has the luxury of time to improve.
Don’t wait until things go bad. If you haven’t already, streamline your customer service guidelines now. Below, we guide you through the steps required to set up and implement a world-class customer-service system for your restaurant or bar.
Develop a Manual with Customer Service Guidelines
To offer great customer service, the entire staff needs to be clear about what that means for your restaurant or bar. Decide how you want to serve your customers, and write it down in a manual. No restaurant is too small to have a manual either—any business from a chain restaurant to a small café should have a cohesive set of guidelines.
Tie your business philosophy to your customer service values, and include these ideas in the manual. This will help your staff understand your goals, and provide guidance as they work.
In the company manual, break down the customer service guidelines into these three sections, and provide examples and details for each section:
- Clear service goals
- Steps of service
- Performance expectations
With these guidelines, the manual will take away any uncertainty. Your staff will no longer assume the right way or be confused by what is expected of them. Additionally, any feedback from a manager or you will be considered constructive and an opportunity to improve.
Have All Necessary Supplies Available for Staff
For your staff to perform well, they need the necessary tools and supplies—all the time. If tableware is missing or inventories are often low, they will be forced to cut corners, work twice as hard for lower sales, lie or make excuses to customers, and, worse yet, lose morale in their workplace.
As the owner or manager, make sure to have enough tableware and inventory on hand. By giving your staff the tools they need, you help them to focus on the priority at hand: the customers.
For help with inventory management, and streamlining your ordering process, consider automating your inventory ordering by integrating with your restaurant POS.
Hire People Who Belong in Hospitality
You might come across attractive resumes that list years of restaurant and hospitality experience. While experience is a boon for any business owner, don’t be too quick to hire someone because of it. Instead, hire employees that show a knack for hospitality.
The interview is a wonderful opportunity to see just how well a candidate would give kind and gracious service. Giving great customer service includes anticipating needs and working well with people. A kind, compassionate, and passionate candidate with little experience can be trained to perform the basic functions of working at a restaurant. But the opposite proves to be very difficult.
Beware of hiring someone with a great resume who lacks sympathy or kindness in person.
Ask questions that measure your candidate’s empathy and gauge their potential to provide great customer service experiences:
- Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult customer and what you did to resolve their issues.
- What is your definition of good customer service?
- When is it okay to bend the rules for a customer? Give me an example of a time you bent the rules and what the outcome was.
- How do you respond to negative feedback from customers?
When asking interview questions to gauge the empathy of a potential restaurant staff member, you’re looking for answers that involve the customer. See if the candidate can place themselves in the shoes of the customer, and value to views of others when defining their answers.
Develop a Training Method
It’s imperative that every new hire receives the same education on customer service. If different people train new employees, different lessons and approaches might be passed on.
In your manual, include training guidelines so that new employees understand the methods expected from them. Go into detail on tasks that each member of your restaurant team needs to complete in order to provide top-notch service to restaurant customers. This will eliminate confusion later, and unite the team from the beginning.
Have a cohesive training plan that your restaurant managers follow when training new employees. Continue training your staff and managers with ongoing training that highlights great customer service values.
Be a Kind Leader
In addition to discussing your expectations for customer service, be a manager or owner that is present and kind, particularly when giving feedback to staff. To achieve your hospitality goals, your staff needs to feel safe and comfortable under your employment. Whether they are training in a new area or made a mistake, it’s important that they are not afraid of you or the management staff.
Yelling at and berating employees develops a fearful culture, one that builds resentment and hostility. Hospitality cannot thrive in this type of work environment. Instead, a culture of hospitality thrives in an environment where employees are happy and comfortable.
The longevity of your business depends on having leaders who inspire and motivate your staff to achieve your restaurant’s hospitality and sales targets. This part of the roadmap might be the most difficult to establish, particularly if you have had the same managers for a long time. Nonetheless, speak with everyone on the staff to find out if you have a management problem.
Managers that are described as passive-aggressive, known for giving angry tirades, or being rude to employees might be the cause for poor staff performance.
Fear and mistrust destroy the hope for a strong team that can provide great customer service. Once you know who doesn’t contribute to a positive working environment, decide how you want to move forward.
Reward Your Team for a Great Performance
When your staff goes the extra mile for your restaurant or bar, go the extra mile for your staff. Reward them with team meals, end-of-year bonuses, or with gift cards to their favorite stores. Not only does this incentivize your staff to work hard every shift, but it also makes them feel valued at work.
Lavu Tip: For an uplifting reward, set up “compliment cards” for guests to fill out. Hearing unsolicited praise from customers will encourage your staff to keep performing well.
Encourage Your Staff to Become Students
Get inspired by other restaurants and bars! There are many ways of providing great service, so encourage your staff to take notes on other establishments. Save time at the end of your staff meetings for someone to share what impressed them about another place, and talk about how this technique can be applied to your business.
Hospitality grows and evolves over time. Start out by devising a clear set of guidelines for your restaurant and bar to follow. Creating a hospitality culture requires consistent attention to details, continuous training sessions, and a passion for serving. Persist in the pursuit of giving excellent customer service, and the floor is yours!