The restaurant industry has weathered the pandemic, but consumer expectations have changed and the restaurant experience has had to change with them.
Balancing governmental guidelines and protecting the bottom line were likely the priority for many restaurant businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, focusing on the guest experience in restaurants may have fallen by the wayside. This would be unwise. The experience is what makes guests return again and again, and recommend you to their friends.
Businesses will have to design new experiences that their guests want as attitudes and behaviors evolve, and continuously improve if they are to remain relevant.
Defining the restaurant guest experience
Restaurants are not defined solely by the dishes they produce. The guest experience in restaurants is also defined by the accuracy of order, speed of service, friendliness of staff, and cleanliness.
Factors that can affect the restaurant experience include:
- Customer service
- The ordering process – dine-in, in-app, and pick-up windows
- Payment and payment facilitation
- Menu and food choices available
- Food quality
- Cleanliness and tidiness
- Restaurant format
- Takeaway and delivery options
- The setting
Why is the guest experience in restaurants important?
Positive experiences are what make your guests trust you, return for more, and recommend you to their friends and family.
Businesses need to design the experiences guests want, and continuously improve them as attitudes and behaviors evolve if they are to remain competitive.
How to improve the guest experience in restaurants
Improving the guest experience in restaurants comes down to measuring current sentiment, listening to your guests, and taking action to solve the problems highlighted. Does the food taste good? Is the order taken correctly? Is the service slow?
Here are a few suggestions to improve the guest experience:
- Make convenience king – if that’s what your guests expect
After months of social distancing and new ways of dining, guests are more accustomed than ever to self-service. Offering takeaway whether directly with the restaurant or in-app through providers like DoorDash, suitable delivery options – as well as a drive-through – can be the difference between a customer choosing your restaurant and a competitor. But remember, stay true to the experience your guests expect. If you’re a fine dining restaurant, they don’t want drive-through, they’re coming to savor every bite.
- Create a frictionless guest experience
Guests are tech-savvy – and they expect restaurants to follow suit. All touchpoints – from the point of sale to the menu provision – should take into account the latest restaurant technology to make ordering, payment, and reviews as frictionless as possible.
Particularly for business owners, offering a quick and simple digital way of leaving feedback means you can pinpoint issues as they happen and take action. Leaving feedback to just online reviews can mean missing out on vital, timely insights and prevent you from solving issues quickly. Instead, adopt QR codes or in-the-moment surveys in-app to improve the guest experience and encourage both positive and negative feedback.
- Ensure employees are engaged
The restaurant industry can often see high turnover, meaning that restaurants need to keep their employees engaged and invested to retain them. When employees are satisfied, their investment in the business increases – and their dedication to providing a great guest experience responds in kind.
Getting feedback not just from your guests, but from your staff can help to illustrate where your customer service might be failing. Your staff are on the frontline and hear it first hand. Improving the guest experience starts with providing your team with the tools they need to succeed, so take their feedback into account and empower them to create the experience your guests expect.
- Use data to inform your actions
Now, the restaurant experience borders multiple channels, so collecting feedback to understand how the experience can be improved is the first step. The next is understanding it so you know what steps to take. Collecting feedback manually can take too much time – and it might mean you miss negative reviews that are made in online spaces you don’t control, such as social media or online review sites.
It’s a good idea to use a digital-based platform for collating and processing data so you can uncover timely insights and send them to your teams for action. From resolving location-based issues to sorting out wider pain points across the guest experience, you can more easily see trends and take action.
- Focus on customer service
Offering attentive and personalized customer service can be the difference between an okay restaurant and a successful one. No matter the scenario – responding to negative reviews, offering in-restaurant customer service, or messaging in response to online feedback you’ve requested – responsive and proactive service is key.
Thanking guests for their time and feedback, quickly resolving issues, being consistently professional, and offering helpful recommendations are good ways to engage your guests. Your customer service might be the reason why guests choose to return – and to recommend.
- Start a loyalty program and offer personal rewards
An easy way to encourage guests to return and to make them feel more invested in your restaurant is to offer a loyalty program. Investing in customer engagement solutions – such as rewards for times visited, birthday gifts, and more – can help you to develop a closer relationship with your guests. How they feel about your brand is important, and a loyalty program can help guests to feel as though they personally have a stake in returning for more. Remember to optimize the rewards based on your guests’ personal preferences for the best results.