The scene is set for cafes, restaurants and pubs in the UK. With re-opening target dates tantalising close, food and beverage establishments are looking forward to getting back to doing what they do best. Pent-up demand is likely to see a flood of hungry and thirsty customers at their doors, so business owners just have to open up and cater to the rush, right? Not quite.
In what will be a super-competitive period in the hospitality sector, restaurateurs, publicans and cafe proprietors will need to do everything in their powers to ensure their guests have a great time, and return time and time again.
Many would be forgiven for thinking the customer experience starts when guests sit down and get their order. after all, that's what they come for. But in reality their customer journey comprises three main stages: before, during and after.
No matter how good a restaurant's food for drink, customers will be in short supply if their pre-dining experience is less than superb. Usually their journey starts with a telephone or online enquiry with a view to booking, so it is essential that websites are intuitive, informative, full of character, beautiful photos and reflective of the business' persona. Further, the booking process has to be fast with the ability for users to look at menus, reserve a slot and leave a deposit or full payment.
Most restaurant booking systems have the ability to send pre-reservation emails and SMS messages, which is a fantastic opportunity not just to confirm the booking but to say thank you. Links to maps, directions, previous feedback and opening hours are always welcomed, too.
The same applies to telephone bookings. Nothing beats a great pre-reservation experience than a professional and friendly voice on the end of the line, covering the above points and finishing with a heartfelt “we can't wait to see you”.
There's an old adage which says the customer experience begins at the door. As well as making sure the door is literally a nice thing to enter through, restaurant owners should ensure they fully understand the walk-in experience their customers will have. Particular attention should be paid to what their customers will see and hear first, from the décor to the well-rehearsed greeting: all must be consistently in keeping with what was intimated during the reservation process.
An informal but thought-through conversation will go a long way to giving a great first impression:
it is lovely to see you
what can we do to make your experience today fantastic?
do you have any preferences? (seating etc)
let me show you to your table
which other restaurant/pub/cafe did you consider before booking with us? Why?
are you here for a special occasion?
That last point is key, because it is the perfect opener for a whole host of dialogue allowing the establishment to give a high degree of personalisation. Small touches can leave a hugely long-lasting and positive impression on customers while costing practically nothing (and usually less than that!).
Information gleaned from informal conversation is gold dust when trying to impress customers and ensure their experience is memorable for the right reasons. Birthdays, anniversaries etc can be recorded safely within the restaurant management system as a means to re-engage customers long after today's event is over. The same is true of favourite drinks, dishes, seating arrangements and a whole host of other things. What can be better than a customer's favourite drink waiting for them when they walk through the door next time they visit?
Things nearly always go right in the hospitality business, but when catering slips up it is vital to acknowledge the problem with the customer. If the wait time is going to be lengthy, tell the customer on their arrival: they'd much rather know beforehand or even better use a structured waiting list. Likewise if a customer has clearly not enjoyed their dish, acknowledge this with them and talk to them about how you will make it right on their next visit (a nice “presumptive close” there, as sales people would say).
Problems shouldn't just be addressed on the day, but proactively recorded in the customer's record within the restaurant management system. Doing so will allow managers and staff to reference those problems next time the customer visits, showing they were listened to and addressed and providing another of those nice-touch moments. Recognising that guests didn't like their previous seating and offering an alternative table will gain restaurants huge “points” over the competition.
Positively invite feedback and direct customers as to how they can leave it, be it online or at the till. Explain to customers why it is important for you in generating new customers, particularly in this post-closure period.
In the same way that restaurants don't want their guests to be one hit wonders, guests love to feel the love continue after their dining experience. We're not suggesting bombarding customers forever more with every promotion, but a simple “thank you” communication is something which will be remembered long after the customer's dinner has gone down. For the more adventurous restaurant, pub or cafe owner, information gleaned during the booking can be used to entice customers back next time for anniversaries, birthdays or other special occasions. Every guest likes to feel remembered.
The UK is set for a long-awaited period of frenetic restaurant activity as customers release their pent-up demand. Competition will be fierce, meaning that businesses will need to provide a memorable and personalised experience covering the entire customer journey if they are to encourage repeat business in 2021.
favouritetable is the leading technology provider for food an drink businesses in the UK. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and easy-to-use systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to maximise their revenue.
Call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to demonstrate what you will achieve with the right technology.