3 Steps to Improving Customer Service at Restaurants

  • Jun 9, 2011

3 Steps to Improve Customer Service at restaurantsAt most restaurants, the term “customer service” is often talked about at management meetings—but never clearly defined.

As customers continue to eat out less often, while also more closely monitoring their budgets when they do go out to eat, the difference in winning the business often comes down to stellar customer service.

According to a recent Gallup study, the most powerful driver of engagement in fast food is “being treated as a valued customer,” followed by “the warmth of the greeting” and “the taste of the food.”

That’s right—the top two drivers of a dining experience are both in the customer service realm: “being treated as a valued customer” and “the warmth of the greeting”. These come before “taste”.

That same 2011 Gallup study shows that a “engaged fast-food customer spend 16% more than a customer who is not engaged”. On average, a fully engaged consumer will spend $33.90 on fast food per month 16% more than the $29.24 a “non-engaged consumer will spend.

Seems simple enough, right?. How can you improve these “customer engagements”?

1) Clearly Define “Customer Engagements”

Your definition must include clear cut meanings—with very little ambiguity.

  • State exactly what you expect.
  • What behaviors are not acceptable.
  • How much leeway your employees have, etc.

Role play with your employees, get feedback, test concepts and keep fine tuning for best results.

2) Set Clear Metrics

Once you have defined what it is that you expect, set up metrics for your incentive program. Without metrics, you cannot run an effective employee motivation or incentive program.

It is not enough to say “we want our employees to ensure exceptional customer service.” This is vague and will get you nowhere.

When we work with our clients on employee incentive programs , we often suggest such metrics as:

Eye Contact: Making eye contact with person within the first 6 seconds.

Greeting: Greeting the customer with a standard greeting within the first 15 seconds of them coming through the doors.

Dress code: Depending on the type of restaurant you run, this dress code needs to conform with the type of clientele you wish to attract. Whatever you choose, it must be clean and to a certain standard—which needs to be enforced. Same goes for piercings and tattoos, though that is a whole other story.

Checking Up: How many times and how often do you check on the customer, if it is full or partial service restaurant? This should be defined.

Restroom Cleanliness: How often will the restrooms be checked? Are you going to wait until customers report paper towel shortages and plugged up toilets or be pro-active in checking the restrooms?

Suggestive Selling: Very few wait people/servers like to sell. If they did, they’d be selling computers, cars real estate or something else for a living. Give them points every time they suggest the soup of the day—or ask if they’d like to “Super-size” their meal, etc. Extra points should be awarded when the customer opts for the up-sell – for greater encouragement and success.

3) Watch, Monitor, Repeat

  • Fine tune your program on a regular basis.
  • Listen to feedback.
  • Are customers getting turned off by the up-sell?
  • Are they feeling pressured?
  • Are employees reacting positively to these new changes?

Changing your restaurant’s customer service to have meaning will help you to better engage with your customers.

And better engagement means more sales and profits.

Please let me know what steps you are taking to improve customer engagements at your restaurants.


  • Category: Employee Incentives, Loyalty Marketing/Frequency Programs
  • Tags: customer service, customer service ideas, customer service tips, employee incentive programs, improving customer servce, improving restaurant service, inspiring waiters and cashiers, motivating employ