As a restaurateur of almost twenty years, I’ve always believed that customer feedback and satisfaction is the foundation of a restaurant’s success. People can get food anywhere, but they go out for the experience.
You may be surprised that customers are actually grateful when you ask them for their opinions. It makes them feel important to know that you want to hear what they have to say. It’s a trust building activity and by extension a customer retention activity. However, collecting your customer’s input is only the first piece of the puzzle. Let me explain.
When I ask restaurant managers or owners how they like to receive customer feedback, the majority prefer face-to-face as compared to other methods. But when I ask them what their process is for leveraging that feedback to improve operations and increase revenue, they cannot give a straight answer. Incorporating customer feedback cannot be an after-thought, it should be front and center in how you run your business! Below are nine mistakes that I commonly see restaurateurs make with regards to customer feedback. Avoiding these will help you plan for success with your feedback system in your own restaurant.
9 Mistakes to Avoid
1. Not using feedback at all. – If you’re reading this I hope you don’t fall into this category, but some restaurateurs use the following flawed logic:
“I know I’m doing a good job because…. well… they keep coming back don’t they?”
One day they won’t come back and by that point it’s too late. Every restaurant has room for improvement.
2. Relying on table touches alone – The average human can hold seven facts in memory at any given time before something is forgotten. Are you going to keep a day’s worth of customer feedback in your head? Getting feedback in person in feedback is great, but if you turn around and do nothing with that feedback then you are betraying your customer’s trust!
You need a system or a protocol in place to capture that feedback. Automated systems are better, but even paper comment cards are better than nothing!
3. Loyalty program does not equal customer feedback – Bribing your customers with treats and discounts to keep them coming back may boost short term retention, but it is not a substitute for a high quality of service honed through rigorous customer feedback.
4. Assuming you know what your customers are thinking – Restaurant goers in America are conditioned to tip no matter what, even for mediocre service. Until you’ve asked your customer directly what they think of your restaurant then you don’t really know.
5. Arguing with your customer – Your customer’s perspective is valid whether or not you agree with him, so don’t waste your time arguing that they are wrong! When you’re collecting customer feedback they should be doing 90% of the talking and you should be LISTENING. (The other 10% of the time you are asking clarifying questions).
6. Using feedback only as a “stick” – Customer feedback is great for keeping your staff honest, but if it only results in punishment and negative repercussions then you will have a poor culture among your team and they will never ask your customers for feedback in the first place! It is up to you to reward your team and double down on things you are doing right. Positive feedback can be just as insightful as negative feedback.
7. Not educating your staff – Even the best customer feedback system requires that your staff be on board. Educate them as to how to use your system and hold them accountable. (Also avoid mistake #6).
8. Not leveraging social media ¬– Watch this. Social media is not just a place for people to talk trash about your restaurant. It can actually benefit your business a lot when used appropriately. If you don’t feel familiar enough to use it, then consult someone who does.
9. Doing nothing – The worst mistake you can make is to collect your customers’ feedback and then do nothing with it. This is a recipe for disaster.
If you avoid these nine mistakes then you are on the right track to delivering the superior customer experience that your clientele deserves. Comment below to let me know how you leverage customer feedback in your own restaurant or if you have any mistakes of your own that you’ve run into and should be avoided. And remember, when it comes to your customer feedback system – if you don’t talk about it, they don’t know about it. Simple as that!
You can reach Ramin @talk2rami or firstname.lastname@example.org