People go out to dinner to escape the dishes, have a nice atmosphere, try some great food and be waited on by courteous servers. They might want food different from what they usually have or something like they had as a child. Whatever they’re looking for, they obviously think your restaurant will be just the ticket and it’s up to you to fulfill those expectations.
When it comes to opening a new restaurant you must try to imagine what the ideal dining experience is from the customer’s perspective. Some ideas are conventional and others you will get by brain storming or by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and visiting other restaurants to learn more about how they welcome their customers.
People like to feel welcomed when they enter a restaurant. They don’t necessarily want to be treated like a family member, but they want to know that their business is appreciated. If you don’t have a greeter, be sure that there is someone at the door to welcome them in and show them to a table. If they are expected to choose their own table, make that clear by placing a sign at the entrance that thanks them for coming in and invites them to choose a table.
As the server approaches the table to greet the diners, a smile is always welcome. Smiles are cheap and the best way to make someone feel as if you’re glad they are there. Also ask your waiting staff to introduce themselves to guests right away. Handing out the menus is a good opportunity to tell the customers what the daily special is and many people appreciate being told the locations of the bathroom facilities. All this will make them feel welcomed and relaxed. After a few minutes the server can glance over and ascertain whether they are ready to order.
Your customers are there to have a relaxed dinner and to enjoy the company of those they are with. It’s important not to make them feel they have to hurry through the meal so that you can use their table! While a server should check back at least once to be sure everything is to their liking, hovering over the table can make a diner feel rushed. An attentive server will keep an eye on her or his tables and know when to clear the dishes. It’s very uncomfortable for your customers to relax when the table is full of dirty dishes so they should be cleared away as soon as possible. To avoid making them feel rushed, the server should offer them coffee or dessert.
Make sure that the table arrangement doesn’t place tables so close as to facilitate eavesdropping. While nobody means to eavesdrop, it’s difficult to carry on a conversation when one is distracted by the discussions at the surrounding tables. Allow you customers and your servers some breathing room.
One complaint that seems consistent across the country is not the choice of music in a restaurant but the volume. Walk out into the dining area when it’s full to gauge the comfort level of your sound system. If you hear no music, it’s too low. However, if you’re having trouble hearing someone standing next to you, turn down the volume immediately. Music is wonderful for ambiance but when it’s intrusive it becomes a liability.
If you don’t make diners feel welcome and relaxed in your restaurant than chances are they will not want to return, no matter how good the food is. Success in the restaurant business comes down to many factors but one of the main ones is the environment and the experience that you create for your customers.