There's No Secret Sauce To Creating an Outstanding Customer Experience in Your Restaurant

In the culinary world, franchisors, chefs, staff members, restaurant critics, and customers alike understand one important thing: great food has the power to make a transformative impact… but inconsistent and underwhelming hospitality means customer experiences will suffer. 

When the key elements of hospitality are embedded into a restaurant franchise’s culture—extending not only to customers but its employees as well—the shared experience of delicious food can achieve its full potential: Creating bonds and unforgettable experiences that foster customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Beyond the Menu: Hospitality and Manners Matter

First things first: As a restaurant owner and operator, it’s important to understand that you are in the people business first, and the food comes second. When it comes to maximizing guest satisfaction and rave reviews, the way your guests feel while eating great food makes a huge impact. 

It won’t matter how wonderful and well-executed your menu is if interactions with staff (and your processes) are unpleasant.

“As basic as it is, treating others the way you want to be treated is often overlooked and the repercussions have a huge impact on a guests’ decision to come back.” Says Kim DeCarolis, SVP of Strategic Growth for Craveworthy Brnds. “Anyone who walks in your door is a potential customer. So, treating everyone with kindness and respect, whether a guest or a DoorDash or UberEats driver, will make a positive impact. People won’t remember that the food didn’t look like the picture or their online order came out 3 minutes late. But, they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”  

Providing front-end staff with guidelines and training on etiquette is a big step toward differentiating your service from competitors. A good thing to keep in mind is: Do you want to be remembered as the restaurant with an attentive and friendly staff… or the restaurant whose staff is cold and disengaged? 

By instilling good manners and excellent customer service, you can (almost) guarantee your staff will always be ready to deliver top-tier dining experiences for guests.

Here are several strategies you can employ to foster excellent restaurant etiquette:

  • Lead by example
  • Offer comprehensive training
  • Set clear expectations from the beginning
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Participate in role-playing activities to set your staff up for success
  • Demonstrate active listening
  • Review conflict resolution skills your staff can utilize in challenging situations 
  • Offer incentives and recognition for consistent performance 
  • Schedule routine team meetings to check in with your staff members
  • Elicit feedback from your most valued audience—your customers

Cultivating good manners within your restaurant franchise doesn’t have to be a headache. Start simple, and be open to new ways you can continue to encourage good manners. Try starting off with these easy tips:

Smiling & friendly body language

A smile goes a long way. It triggers positive emotions—and it’s contagious! You can easily lift the mood, and improve the overall customer experience, just by flashing a confident and charming smile.

Make eye contact

While this may feel awkward initially, making eye contact with the person you’re talking to, whether a customer or fellow employee, is an important part of communication. It’s a form of nonverbal communication that offers multiple benefits:

  • Creates a bond between people, increasing a sense of empathy.
  • Creates a connection with honesty and confidence—fostering a sense of trust.
  • Decreases the likelihood of misunderstandings and order mistakes.
  • Demonstrates respect.

Say “please” and “thank you”

Consistently applying these fundamental communication skills can drastically improve customer experience, and demonstrate a higher level of support and understanding in your restaurant. 

In a recent survey by Black Box Intelligence, 53% of restaurant operators shared they are prioritizing enhancing their customer service in 2023. By fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and professionalism, your good manners will set you apart from your competitors, and offer the positive dining experience your customers deserve.

Don’t Forget—Your Employees Deserve Respect Too

As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, one thing remains the same: how you treat your customers and employees will have a direct impact on your overall success.

Did You Know? 82% of consumers prefer to open their wallets to brands that align with their own values—and 47% of customers consider employee-centric restaurants to be more trustworthy.

Hospitality matters to customers, and not just the care shown to them. Guests are very observant, and they notice how the staff is treated by leadership. To set yourself up for success, consider the nine basic principles of hospitality and quality service (and remember to apply them to your guests and your staff.)

  1. First impressions matter. Make sure your staff is welcoming, friendly, courteous, and approachable from the moment your customers enter the restaurant.

  2. Employ knowledgeable staff. Whether a customer has a question about the menu or where the best place is to park, your staff should have the answers. And if they do not know the answer, they should demonstrate a willingness to find out. 

  3. Be efficient. When it comes down to it, time is money. When guests see staff working quickly and smoothly, they feel at ease and can trust they are in good hands. 

  4. Great service should be well-timed. This involves anticipating the needs of your guests and providing the right items, services, and information before the customer even has to ask. Examples of this include: ensuring tableware and menus are provided upon seating (where applicable), or servers bringing complimentary water when taking beverage orders.

  5. Show flexibility. Sure, there are obvious rules that need to be adhered to—but, if a guest requests their food be delivered out of sequence (a salad after the entrée, for example) it’s okay to bend the rules to see a table of happy smiles.

  6. Consistency is key. Great service should always be consistent. When a customer comes back to your restaurant, they’re doing so because you’ve proven that they can count on awesome service and food every time they stop by. 

  7. Maintain effective communication. Ensuring your staff can deliver accurate information (and additional insight—like a delicious special that doesn’t currently appear on the menu) elevates the guest experience from ordinary to extraordinary. More importantly, the language and tone used by your staff directly reflect your restaurant as a whole. 

  8. Establish a sense of trust. When a guest enters your restaurant, they want enjoyable experiences—consistently. This extends from knowledgeable servers to accurate descriptions of the menu, and meeting proper health and sanitary codes.

  9. Strive to exceed customer expectations. If you want repeat customers, it’s important to always look for new ways to exceed their expectations. If there’s one quality more effective than consistently great experiences—it’s one that keeps getting better. Even little touches make a huge difference, like remembering a customer’s name or favorite drink order, offering a coloring activity sheet to kids, or apologizing for a mix-up with a complimentary dessert.

Crafting a Culture of Excellence

In addition to building a culture of hospitality, restaurant owners are transitioning into a “new normal” as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic. This shift economically and socially presents both opportunities and challenges for franchisees.

  • An estimated $997 billion in sales in the food service industry is due, in part, to higher menu prices.
  • 84% of consumers prefer to spend their leisure time dining at a restaurant instead of cooking at home.
  • Restaurant operators continue analyzing how to handle the challenge of rising food costs.
  • Many “temporary solutions” developed during the pandemic are here to stay—outdoor dining, investment in technology (like self-service kiosks, contactless payments, etc), and expanded delivery services
The National Restaurant Association predicts roughly 150,000 jobs opening from 2023 to 2030, causing total staffing levels to cross the 16.5 million mark by the end of 2030. Needless to say, the restaurant and food service industry is an industry of opportunity. 

The need for consistent training and coaching opportunities is apparent, now more than ever. This is crucial for several reasons:

  • Enhancing customer experience.
  • Maintaining quality standards.
  • Adapting to changing market conditions and trends.
  • Improving efficiency.
  • Promoting career growth and development.
  • Ensuring compliance.

Your Journey to Success Starts Now

While it’s true that the restaurant business has a risky reputation, ensuring great food and great hospitality means you’re already on your way to prosperity and lasting success. Just like any relationship, the one between your establishment and your customers will flourish with compassion, respect, and courtesy. 

If you’re ready to find out just how great success can taste, reach out to one of our seasoned franchising advisors today—and take your first step toward success with Craveworthy Brands.

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