Customers are the lifeblood of your restaurant, so looking at customer satisfaction should be an ongoing, constant part of your job as a restaurant owner or manager.
Market Force Information surveyed UK’s casual dining restaurant customers and discovered that one in five diners had a disappointing dining experience that they chose not to share with the restaurant in question. The study found that these diners were also more likely to post a review about their experience on social media.
It’s also worth noting that three out of every four respondents read a review on a restaurant before booking, with 44% deciding whether or not to visit a restaurant based on the reviews they read.
To help answer this burning question, we invited customer service expert LeeAnne Homsey to share her advice on how to improve customer service satisfaction. LeeAnne has more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry. She grew up in the business and moved to New York City, where she managed several restaurants for the owners of Tao, Docks, Carmine’s and Marseille.
Before we get to LeeAnne’ top customer satisfaction tips, though, let’s first address how exactly to track your own customer satisfaction levels. After all, you can’t raise your customer satisfaction score if you don’t even know your areas for improvement.
The 10 key customer satisfaction factors
What makes your customers satisfied enough that they would want to go back to your restaurant and share their positive (or negative) experience online? The latest study by Market Force Information uses these ten factors:
- Friendly service. Are your wait staff polite and attentive to your customers?
- Value for money. Does the quality of food you offer justify the retail price? Is your food reasonably priced?
- Cleanliness. Is your place of establishment visibly neat and organised? Have you passed the necessary health inspections?
- Menu variety. How many options does your restaurant have? How often do you change or upgrade your menu?
- Fast service. How fast do you serve your food?
- Sensitivity to food allergies. Are your wait staff and cooks trained to prepare food for people with allergies?
- Good special promotions. Does your restaurant offer promotions during special occasions? Do you have meal deals or platters available for big groups?
- Inviting atmosphere. What is the overall atmosphere or ambience of your restaurant?
- High quality food. Does your restaurant use fresh ingredients sourced from reputable sources?
- Healthy food choices. Do you offer vegan options? Do you cater for gluten-free diners? What emphasis do you put on fresh ingredients?
In addition to the above, casual dining restaurants should also be concerned with fast service, food quality and friendly service. This is because casual dining restaurants should be synonymous with quality, reasonably priced food, which are served efficiently.
How to measure customer satisfaction in your restaurant
So, how can you tell if your customer service experience is actually fulfilling the needs of your customers?
The following are some of the most commonly used customer satisfaction metrics in the restaurant industry. We’ll quickly showcase what each metric is and how it works, to then help consider which one is a better option.
1. Customer retention rate (CRR)
One of the most important KPIs related to customer satisfaction is customer retention rate. This is the percentage of customers who return to your establishment over a set time period. If customers return to your restaurant, then it’s a good indicator that they enjoyed your food and your service.
You can calculate your CRR by using the following formula:
Customer retention rate = the number of customers at the end of a period – the number of new customers acquired during that period / the number of customers at the start of that period * 100
2. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
CSAT is best used to evaluate a diner’s experience with your restaurant right after their meal. Here are a few common questions that can measure their CSAT:
- Are you likely to return to this restaurant?
- Have you enjoyed your dining experience at (name of restaurant)?
- How would you rate your experience at our restaurant?
- Are you happy with your overall experience at our restaurant?
CSAT is usually measured on a five, seven or ten-point scale, with “0” as “No” or the negative end of the spectrum. To get your Customer Satisfaction Rating or Customer Satisfaction Score, you must calculate the average score of all your respondents.
3. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
One way to measure the likelihood of customer referrals is through your Net Promoter Score. This is measured with the help of one simple question:
“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or family member?”
To calculate your restaurant’s NPS, subtract the percentage of those who answered from 0 to 6 from the percentage of those who answered from 9 to 10. Your score can range from -100 to 100. And yes, the higher the score, the better!
4. Online review ratings
Another useful customer satisfaction metric is your average rating of online reviews. Your average review scores on your Facebook and Tripadvisor pages, as well as Google My Business, all help a new customer decide whether they should visit your establishment or not.
The aim here is to raise your average ratings by improving on what your customers have written about you. This has been proven to have a positive knock-on effect on your restaurant’s bottom line – a Harvard Business Review article actually suggests that every one star increase in a Yelp rating equates to a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.
Another customer happiness KPI related to online reviews is simply to get more reviews so that your business can attract new customers. In fact, one study suggests that a business needs to have at least 40 reviews before consumers trust its average rating.
The best ways to collect customer feedback
Once you’ve honed in on the right metrics for gauging customer satisfaction, then it’s time to work on your survey questionnaire. Your options are as follows:
1. Short customer satisfaction surveys
If you have very busy customers who don’t seem to have enough time to answer long survey forms, you can simply ask a few, critical questions that will tell you a lot about your restaurant’s customer experience. The standard metrics restaurants usually measure responses against here could include CSAT and NPS.
2. Customer satisfaction feedback forms
If you’ve observed that your customers are usually in no hurry after their meal, you can give them a longer, more detailed feedback form. Our sample form below covers the different aspects of the customer experience which can affect their overall satisfaction levels.
You may also leave a space for comments, in case your customer would like to raise an issue that was not covered by the set questions.
- Value for money
- Waiting time
Different ways to survey your restaurant customers
There are different ways to implement a customer satisfaction survey and you can administer it, using either offline or online methods.
1. Face-to-face feedback
This is possibly one of the simplest ways to get customer feedback. Your wait staff are the best people to talk to guests and develop a rapport with them. A guest’s dining experience would also be very fresh in his or her mind. It’s also important for the wait staff to log the answers they get in a centralised database. Failing that, they can simply tell their managers about the feedback they received or maybe post them in your shared communication channel.
2. Paper surveys
Some restaurants use printable survey forms to obtain customer feedback. These are then handed out by the wait staff while guests are waiting to pay the bill. It’s often a good idea to incentivise customers to actually complete their survey. For example, those who finish the survey can get a free dessert on their next visit or be entered in a raffle.
3. Mobile POS feedback system
Using a tablet connected to your POS, customers are asked to give their feedback in just a few clicks. More and more restaurants are using this method because it collates the data in real time.
4. Focus groups
If you want in-depth knowledge about customer perception and behaviour, focus groups can be conducted with the help of a marketing agency.
However, just make sure you have some volunteers who can set aside time for this — these sessions are a great way to do a deep dive into different customer concerns.
5. Social media feedback
If your restaurant has its own social media pages, then it’s more than likely that some customers have reached out to you by direct messaging or by commenting on your posts.
You can also poll your restaurant followers on Facebook. Questions don’t have to be too structured and the discussion can be free-flowing, based on the responses you’ll get.
6. Email surveys
Another way to get customer feedback is to send an online survey directly. You can use free online tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms for these. However, there is a chance that your customers may overlook this email and the memory of their experience may not be so fresh in their minds. It’s better to send this to your regulars. You can also incentivise them if they finish answering the survey.
7. Community groups and discussion boards
You can “listen in on” on what people are saying about your restaurant by joining social media groups or communities related to food and restaurants. You may also use social listening tools, like Mention, which will collate sentiment around your restaurant in different social media channels. Just browsing through different comments may raise some issues or concerns that were not covered by your questionnaire.
A 7-point plan to improve your restaurant’s customer satisfaction
Now you’ve collated your customer satisfaction survey responses, you should be aware of the areas for improvement in your restaurant. This means it’s time to put your plan for improving customer satisfaction into action – with a little help from LeeAnne’s insider tips and tricks to win your customer’s hearts and loyalty!
1. Accept that it means more to you than to them
As a restaurant manager or owner, first realise that most of your staff would prefer to do something else than working and start motivating and managing from there.
Your staff will respect you more when you acknowledge that your steak, your chef, your interior design and even your customers may not mean the world to them but that they mean everything to you. Discuss in pre-shift that this is your dream, and because of it, they now all have jobs. Help them understand that while they are employed with you they are helping you realise your dream and that in return you are helping them reach theirs.
2. Focus on dreams and goals
Constantly discuss during pre-shift that with customer referrals everyone will reach their dreams and goals faster. Find out what your employees’ dreams and goals are (you may be surprised!) and then manage and coach them from there.
3. Better service means more money
Help your staff understand that customers who experience better customer service come back, tell friends and post it on social media platforms.
Help them understand the ROI of each returning guest in dollar amounts: Say a customer dines once and leaves $8 in the cash register versus a “groomed and coached” one, who returns once a month on an average of two years. The latter customer leaves much more money (approximately $300), as he will buy more and tip higher since he is a regular, known and cherished customer.
4. Make money to earn money
Help your staff understand that they can control a large part of their own income in that they have a fully furnished business waiting to operate every time they arrive at work. A business they don’t have to pay rent or electricity for or stock with inventory, a business complete with staff and products and with a few words to friends, neighbours and introductions to area business owners about the amazing salad or steak at their restaurant, new customers could be flooding the entrance asking to sit in their section.
5. Understand the “non-dollar value”
During pre-shift, help your staff understand the “non-dollar value” of each regular customer and how it helps your employees reach his or her own individual goals and dreams.
Say for instance your server Mary has a daughter, so she needs money for schooling. If Mary learns how to steer the customers into her section instead of just waiting for them to come to her, she will generate more money. You can encourage Mary to work harder by offering a special, complimentary appetiser or a glass of champagne if guests come in during “non-peak” dining hours. You would find Mary honestly enjoying that kind of control over her income that she did not know she had.
You would also find Mary providing better and more personalised customer service to guests referred by friends and you would also find her beginning to provide customer service to customers before they even arrive – i.e. when she hands out business cards to business owners or employees assisting her outside of the restaurant and saying, “Thank you for your help! I would love to return the favour and give you V.I.P. treatment at the restaurant I work at. When can you come in? (I want to make sure I am there.)” Her daughter will be off to school in no time but more importantly, Mary will want to stay and work for someone who recognises and helps her reach her goals doing a job she may not want to be doing.
6. Utilise your employees’ strengths
Recognise that each of your employees has a strength which you can inspire superior customer service to.
Mary has her daughter, many servers have school but even a lazy server can be coached to see that, when a customer is made to feel special, not only does he feel as though he is genuinely wanted and appreciated, but Lazy Dan already knows what Joe’s preferences are and can further spoil him by remembering his name, drink or food choices which end up saving Dan several overall steps and even physically walking to the table each time.
Coach Dan that when more guests return and ask to be seated in his station, he can save on average seven miles a year just by communicating to regular guests things like, “I’ll be right over” or “Would you like another?” or “Isn’t that delicious??!!” from across the room. Of course everyone will want to know who Joe is since he is now looks like a V.I.P. and moreover, Joe feels as though he is receiving intuitive, special care and will want to bring friends and colleagues to a place where he is “known.”
7. Look for customer engagement opportunities
Coach your staff to look for customer engagement opportunities not necessarily associated with the customer’s dining experience. These opportunities almost always lead to a bigger tip and a repeat customer who will request that server’s station.
Open the door and introduce a new guest to the hostess for example. As in, “Welcome to [name of restaurant]. Can I introduce you to Ashley our hostess? Ashley this is…?” (John) “Well, welcome John, may I take your coat and make you comfortable while Ashley checks you in?” Yes or no, the server now has his name and can check on him using his name and can respond to any of his requests using his name. “It would be my pleasure John.” “Isn’t that steak amazing John?” Creating these name exchange opportunities are pretty easy.
Just coach your employees to keep their eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary; Helping someone put their coat on, checking packages, special menu requests can all be met with, “You’re LeeAnne’s customer! It is an honour! Just tell your friends to come in so I can always have a lot of customers and die a millionaire! (Haha!)” “Oh I will!” “Really, Thank you! And what is your name so I can give your friends special treatment too?” “O.K. Dave. Thank you again and now any friend of yours is a special customer of mine!”
Opening doors? Putting on coats? Checking packages? Special requests? Using customers’ names? THAT is customer service! Now just show your team how it helps them personally reach their goals faster and you will have an unstoppable team providing uncompromising and authentic superior customer service both inside and outside of your restaurant every hour of every day.
Running a restaurant is demanding and fast-paced, but investing in customer satisfaction surveys and staff training are great ways to improve your service, get more customers and bring in more revenue. All you need is a handy scheduling software that can quickly help you set aside time for employee training. Good luck!