• Hengam: Making Dough Show

3 Keys that define GREAT Restaurant Customer Experience

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

Customer service can make or break your restaurant. No matter how good the food is or how fancy your setting is, if the service is inconsistent and we are not determined in exceeding our customers' expectations, we are gradually going out of business.

If the service isn't where it needs to be, we are in big trouble.

Here's what I suggest you do, have a conversation with your managers or if you are a restaurant manager, ask your team in your next meeting to define their last customer service experience.

One of the challenges that we are facing is that a lot of our employees can't afford to go to fancy restaurants and they have never experienced great service.

Now if they don't know what to expect, they don't know how it looks like, how are they going to practice it in our own restaurant?

Perhaps you have this image in your head as a restaurant owner or as a manager of how you want your service to look or feel like.

The question is, how are you going to translate that in your people if they, themselves have never experienced that great and phenomenal service that we are talking about?

So let me share with you the 3 keys or factors that define great customer experience. I love to talk about this because this has been dear to us, to me and my husband.

We have to define each of these 3 factors for our restaurant as to what are going to be our standards and what are the pieces of training that we are running to provide for our team, front, and back.

These 3 factors are not just theories, in fact, we put in an enormous amount of work behind to make sure that we consistently provide that great service to our beloved customers.

1. The speed of service

The first factor that defines great customer service is the speed of service.

This one can literally make or break the experience the customers are going to have in your restaurant.

That's why we need to have systems in place, we need to have standards to follow and we need to track and measure every single ticket we have.

Nowadays, with the fancy POS system that we've got is easier than ever to track a lot of these things.

Customers have already set their expectations

It does not matter how friendly your people are or how clean the bathroom is, it does not matter how the food taste or how beautiful your decor or anything.

If it takes a customer a long time to get their food, the only thing that they can remember is a bad experience from our restaurant.

When people are hungry and they come into your restaurant with an expectation, like if we go to Chick Fil A or McDonald's and it takes like 5 minutes, we would have already been asking what is taking it so long, right?

Obviously depending on the kind of restaurant you are, the reputation you have, people have previously set their expectations. If you are a fast-food, or you have a fast-casual setting, or do you sell pizza, or do you sell tacos?

People already have expectations, and we need to always exceed that expectation, the speed of service is one of them.

Here is the reality, we live in a society where instant gratification is king, including for you and me.

Whatever we want, we want it now, we get frustrated with waiting. And of course, the same applies to our customers, they want what they want and they want it now.

If they wanted to wait for 45 minutes for a pasta dish, they would have made it home, and they would have not come over to you and pay for it.

They go to our restaurant because they are hungry and they want their food now.

Customers determine the terms of the transaction

We need to be very careful in providing our customers with an outstanding speed of service.

When we fall short when it comes to speed of service to a table, we feel like, if we are to explain to the customer and say, "Oh, we are sorry, we are short of staff, our cook is..."

The truth is whatever our reasons may be, the customer does not care.

Do you care if you are in a restaurant and it seems like it's taking them forever to serve your food especially when they don't proactively come and inform you about the delay?

Or even if you've already been sitting there for 45 minutes waiting for your food and then someone came and said"Oh, I am sorry, it can take another minute", it does not matter because we are paying for our service, we are going to demand something, right?

The same thing goes with our customers. So if you feel frustrated with your customers when they demand those things, know that they can only expect that they are paying for the service.

So don't be there explaining to the customer why this happened and that happened, it's all irrelevant. It only comes across that you are coming up with some excuses and again, customers are giving us money and they determine the terms of the transaction.

Define the standards

So when it comes to speed of service, I want to ask you, do you have standards for your appetizers, for your entree, for your desserts in terms of the speed of the ticket.

How long it takes before the customers receive their appetizer? For instance, you own a pizzeria, on average, what are your ticket times?

I will share with you ours since we own a pizzeria.

Our average time for dine-in is 10-12 minutes, for pick-ups, it's like 15-20 minutes, and for deliveries, we want it within 30 minutes out the door.

We call this standard the "10-20-30 Rule".

Communicate the standards to your team

Again you need to have standards and the other thing that you want to do is the most important part, and that is for your people to know these standards.

So when we talk about a violation of the "10-20-30 Rule", we want our people to know what we are talking about.

So first, define the standards and then you need to make sure that you communicate these standards to your people.

Have training in place and set up quality control checkpoints

The next step is to train your people to follow the standards. You can't expect people to have a 10 to 20 minutes ticket time if you do not have tactical tips for them.

To be able to achieve that, you need to have the training and an ongoing basis for this. The other thing you want to have is a quality control checkpoints to manage the ticket of the speed of service.

So the folks who work in the makeline need to know by when the food needs to be out of their hands for it to be smoothly passed on to the next person whose in charge of cutting until it goes to the driver for delivery.

Everybody just needs to know about those things. I would strongly recommend you to have a logbook for you to take note of everything that happens in the restaurant daily.

By the end of the morning and evening shifts, one mandatory section that our people need to fill out in our logbook is our "10-20-30 Rule" section.

We have a station in the middle of our hallway, we call that "5 Gems" who are actually our servers, they are the "guest experience makers".

They make sure the ticket time of every single ticket that leaves the pass bar is written down in the logbook. We can look it up in the POS system, we average and that defines the time that we communicate to the customer.

When a customer calls for pick-up, for instance, we want to tell them exactly how long is the average time it will take them to come over and pick up their order. We document those and all goes into the logbook.

If this is a factor that matters to the customers, this matters to you as a restaurant owner, and we have to make sure that our team knows that it matters.

One of the ways to do that is to track this every single day and we kudos the team when the ticket times are within range or exceeding expectations and then look into coaching them if they fail to do that.

2. The order accuracy

The next factor that defines great customer service is the order accuracy.

I personally don't eat spicy food much, I go to a restaurant, hypothetically I order a chicken tortilla soup. But I want it with no chilies or hot peppers in it because I don't like spicy food. But then the server comes back with hot peppers in it, and now I have to go through this trouble, I don't want it but should I get another one?

Sometimes you don't want to deal with that so you'll just take it however you are unhappy with the overall experience.