5 Basic errors that restaurants make
What makes a great restaurant? It is the best food, drink, ambience and overall experience offered. Unfortunately some restaurants possessing all of these qualities can, in the heat of the moment, forget the basics and sell themselves short of perfection.
In this short blog we take a look at some of those areas.
Discerning customers expect a discrete yet attentive professional service commensurate with the ambience and style of the restaurant. While poor recruitment decisions, a lack of experience and insufficient training can, in isolation, result in relatively insignificant negativity, diners’ satisfaction will certainly decrease if any or all of the following are experienced:
- Unnecessary chat. Diners want to feel like they are the only people in the world cared about by the service staff. What they don’t want to hear, directly or indirectly, is idle chatter between staff members, gossip or - worse still - negative comments about their colleagues or the business as a whole;
- Indifference. Let’s not dwell on this, because the rule here is very simple. Staff working in hospitality should be absolutely hospitable. Enough said.
- Poor product knowledge. “…the waiter didn’t know anything!”. It’s a familiar complaint when diners tell their friends about unsatisfactory restaurant experiences. The job of service staff is to serve, sure, but it is essential they have at least a basic understanding of what is on the menu and what those dishes comprise. A weekly or daily briefing between the chef and the front of house staff will pay dividends here (and in so doing help ease the traditional frictions between these teams).
- Knowing what is available. It is almost inevitable that some dishes may become unavailable from time to time. As above, staff must be briefed on menu availability and be ready to suggest alternatives to disappointed diners.
- Poor food handling. Fine art painters don’t sell hand over their freshly painted works to buyers with them covered in superfluous splodges (unless they are purveyors of off-the-wall modern art, of course). The same applies to the food served in restaurants: each plate should be delivered with the utmost attention to detail, looking indeed like a work of art and handled with the respect and delicacy it deserves. For diners, there is nothing worse than fingers in pies.
Nothing makes a restaurant look more amateurish than erroneous scheduling. Customers put much thought into choosing their establishments, and greatly look forward to what could be for them a hotly anticipated experience in the coming days or weeks. The impact of being told on arrival that there is no record of the customer’s booking, or there are no tables available is an inevitable disappointment, followed by anger and ultimately long term damage done to the restaurant’s reputation.
Restaurants are dynamic, vibrant operational environments often resembling organised chaos, so savvy owners have long recognised this potential tinderbox effect and invested in more robust systems designed to eradicate errors. There are a range of software systems out there which are easy to use and inexpensive, with the very best including some really nice features such as table scheduling, clever floor plan optimizers, booking rules and waiting lists.
Clearly the efficacy of these systems does rely on the age-old rule of being only as good as their operators and proficiency of use, but most restaurateurs having implemented them would never go back to disparate spreadsheets, pens, paper and loose-leaf diaries.
Poor inventory management
Restaurateurs, be them owner-managers or owner-chefs, are usually masters of inventory management. Many have very robust systems used to account for the business’s stock needs, and for a select few this skill is intuitive and comes naturally.
However, even minor slip-ups in stock control can have catastrophic effects on what happens front of house, as dishes become unavailable causing lasting customer dissatisfaction and reputational damage.
Restaurateurs wishing to make their processes less vulnerable often implement inventory management systems which use software to measure and record stock usage, create alarms when lines become dangerously low and produce automated stock counts and orders daily.
Systems are available on a stand-alone basis, or more commonly within the business’s ePOS system. The best restaurant management systems also have inventory management available as an optional feature.
Poor legislative compliance
Did we mention the tinderbox environment that is the restaurant? With so much happening on a day to day basis, it can be easy to overlook critical legislative compliance. The restaurant sector is one of the most heavily regulated and for good reason, but if the legal landscape is not proactively monitored it can be surprisingly easy to fall foul of the law. Here are just a few areas in which it is critical to be up to date:
- Health and safety
- Food hygiene and handling
- Insurance renewals
- Public performance/music licences
- Human resources legislation
Poor online presence
Here at favouritetable we’re lucky enough to work with hundreds of eating and drinking establishments, from cafe bars through to village pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants. Some very high-end restaurants maintain their prestigious image by, in part, having almost no online presence and it works for them. Others are less fortunate and have to rely on their websites and social media profiles to generate trade, particularly from a generation of customers who rely on web technology to interact with their favourite brands daily.
The challenge comes to restaurant owners when they don’t know how to tackle effective web content themselves, or worse still believe they don’t need it. An effective web presence need not be extensive, expensive or expansive - but it does need to exist. We’ve come across some restaurants with no web presence at all, and plenty with websites which really tell the visitor very little indeed and do nothing to encourage new business.
Fundamentally the restaurant’s website or social media presence should be seen as a critical and essential advertisement for the business, answering the customers’ questions:
- What do you do?
- What do you sell?
- Why should we come to you?
- Where are you?
- How do we contact you?
The best restaurant management systems allow availability to be “pumped” in real time to the restaurant’s own website and bookings made online.
Ongoing customer satisfaction is the holy grail and something which all restaurateurs strive for. As we have seen, however, the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the business can lead to important details being overlooked. A restaurant with great food & drink but poor attention to detail will create an impression at best of one which is idiosyncratic but forgivable and at worst one which is never to be frequented again.
With the right systems in place to cover the basics, cafe bars, pubs and restaurants can be sure of a sound foundation on which to delight discerning customers.
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