One of the simplest and easiest ways to get free advice on how to improve your restaurant or foodservice operation is by listening to what your customers have to say. However, most of your customers may not share their thoughts with you willingly. You have to put some effort into getting it out of them.
The majority of customers who have had an unsatisfactory experience at your operation will leave without saying anything to you. They will, however, tell all their family and friends, or even post their negative experience on social media platforms, thereby driving away potential customers. Therefore, it is imperative that you take action immediately with an apology, a plan to rectify the issue and ask the customer for another chance.
It is also helpful to get positive reviews as you can see what your operation is doing best and build on it. You can also use positive reviews to reward and motivate your staff, and as testimonials to put on your website, flyers or other promotional materials.
Getting feedback from your customers on an ongoing basis will keep your operation successful, and help you build relationships with your customers. Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a world renowned restaurant, foodservice and retail consultancy firm based in Toronto, offers these ideas on how to get that feedback:
1. Just talk to them
The simplest way to get feedback from your customers is by talking to them. It is also a great way to start building relationships. Always ask your customers how they like your food and service, what other items they want to see on the menu, what you can do to improve their experience, etc. If someone has a good idea, try it out. It will show your customers that you care.
2. Google yourself
Make it a habit to check online reviews of your restaurant operation on a weekly basis so that you have a good idea of what your customers are saying. If you read any negative reviews, try to make contact with the reviewers to offer an apology, tell them how you plan to fix the situation, and invite them back for another meal on the house.
3. Email them
Create a database of your customers and build an email list. Use this list to not only send them information or promotions about your restaurant, but send them surveys or questionnaires to get their input. Provide an incentive for them to take the time to provide their feedback like a free appetizer or a 10% discount on their next meal.
4. Use comment cards
Comment cards are a great way for customers to express their opinions and give you feedback anonymously. They can also be used to collect information for your database. Place a drop box that is locked by the exit of your operation, or allow customers to mail in the cards as well (just make sure you pay for the postage!). Make sure you ask for contact information, and offer an incentive for filling in the card.
5. Use online comment cards
Another option for comment cards is to have an online version. Ask your customers to log onto your website, type in their assigned receipt number and fill out your comment card. Again, offer an incentive for filling it out.
6. Never let an angry customer walk out the door
One of the biggest mistakes that restaurant operators make is to allow unsatisfied or irate customers to walk out the door. If you cannot handle dealing with a confrontation, hire professional consultants to train yourself and your staff on how to deal with an angry customer. Most people are willing to forgive if you apologize and sincerely want them to have a good experience at your operation.
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