According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people have five basic needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.
From the restaurant industry’s perspective, that means if customers are treated with courtesy and friendliness from the moment they enter a restaurant to when they pay the bill, then they will be happy. It’s a financial transaction, but they’ll feel that the experience was more than just buying food.
It’s not difficult to show respect to your customers, but it leaves an indelible impression. All you need to do is remember the name of each guest, greet him or her with a smile and display other common courtesies. Hong Kong writer Anita Leung once said, “I like returning to my favorite restaurants because I am treated with courtesy. The waiters call me Ms. Liang from the beginning to the end of my meal, and I always feel respected. For example, if my seat is not in an ideal location, I can swap it immediately for a better table.”
All guests expect the same kind of service as Ms. Liang. Managers know it is common sense to treat every customer with deference, no matter what kind of restaurant they operate.
If you want to prioritize guests, don’t forget to treat each person as an individual with particular needs. At one restaurant, a guest ordered a bottle of French red wine after his meal. The waiter asked, as usual, if the guest wanted him to add some Sprite to the wine. The guest replied, “Yes, but let me do it myself this time.”
When the waiter turned around to get the bill, another server came over. Not having heard the customer’s directions, he poured two bottles of Sprite into the wine. The guest was extremely displeased and said, “I already told you, we wanted to mix it ourselves, because not everyone at the table wants Sprite in their wine!” This made the atmosphere in the restaurant extremely tense. Fortunately, the original waiter ran over immediately and made a sincere apology, thereby appeasing the customer.
Maybe this seems like it was just a small misstep, but it made the guest feel as if his request had been ignored. Some waiters just do whatever they are accustomed to do, and if Sprite in red wine is a popular drink, they will just assume all guests at a table want a glass. But this means some people will be dissatisfied and feel as if they have been overlooked.
The service industry requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. If a waiter carefully takes each person’s tastes into account before he starts mixing drinks, then he can avoid making this kind of mistake.
Very attentive customer service is even more important for small restaurants that want to keep their regulars and cultivate new business within their communities. They have to look at their neighborhood, pay attention to their regulars and offer these customers’ special rewards, like coupons, preferred customer cards and special delivery services. These are all ways to ensure that you have a steady base of returning customers.
Some restaurants rely on unmarried office professionals or students living in dorms for most of their business. A restaurant owner should make sure to be attentive to these guests and ask them questions like “How does the food taste? Did you get enough to eat?” This creates a genuine rapport. If a restaurant acknowledges how busy a customer is, then they will feel like their hard work is being acknowledged, and they will want to return not just for the food, but also for the friendly faces.
(Photo via Google, CC License)