What do customers look for in a restaurant experience?

Customer service is the cornerstone of a successful restaurant, but what this means exactly is often left open to interpretation. What makes for a positive dining experience differs greatly by customer, however there are a few markers of a customer’s experience that are likely to leave them with a good taste in their mouth (excuse the pun).

We’ve put together a list of what customers say is most important for them in their restaurant experience — and no, we’re not counting food quality.

1. Sincerity and Communication

Guests at your restaurant want to feel human, not like a number, so making real sincere contact with them is a great way to starting off their experience at your restaurant on a positive note. They want to communicate with you, make eye contact and have a human experience in your establishment.

Start by giving a real greeting instead of mumbling a general “hello.” What else can you do to make customers feel special?

  • Learn the names of regular guests and make them feel appreciated and acknowledged.
  • Learn food or drink preferences and make suggestions that seem sincere and unique.
  • Communicate with your customers online and have an active presence on social media.
  • Respond to negative reviews and customer disputes directly and honestly.

Remember that your customers are people and deserve to be treated as such! Millennials in particular demand a real connection.

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Friendly hostess

 2. Menu Flexibility

“I need something gluten free, dairy free, fat free, organic, and following paleo guidelines.”

People often have food preferences, allergies or other dietary restrictions. Restaurants that don’t allow for substitutions will only suffer as customers grow increasingly used to being able to fashion their own meals and make desired changes. While you can’t do everything a customer may ask for, having a flexible menu will make customers happy.

It’s important!

  • Be ready and open to proposed alternatives
  • Be aware of potential allergens
  • Have planned substitutes for items that may cause problems on your menu
  • Have healthy alternatives available like fresh and organic items

Being open to alternates will prove to customers that you care about their needs and preferences.

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3. Knowledgeable staff members

Having knowledgeable staff is without a doubt a key element of a customer’s experience, especially when it comes to fine dining. Wine pairings, health information and details about seasonal menus are just a few of the pieces of information that customers expect for their servers to have.

Any establishment that isn’t able to answer questions, will likely leave a poor impression. How can you help your staff be more knowledgeable?

  • Provide continual training in terms of new menu items, including seasonal items
  • Make sure servers know about all specials and cooking methods
  • Use technology such as a POS system to store and communicate additional information about your menu. There are many ways that a mobile POS system can help your restaurant

Knowledgeable wait staff

4. Dealing with Payment Quickly

Following a meal, customers want to be able to pay and leave. Wasting time sitting around waiting to pay, get change or a receipt, is a poor way to end even the best of meals. By quickly taking payment and having software that allows for you to easily split bills, you will show your customer that you respect their time and care about their after-dining experience as much as before they’ve eaten.

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5. Overall Experience

About 40 percent of consumers, especially Millennials, would rather have an experience than buy a physical good.

  • Be authentic and don’t try too hard.
  • Sell what you are and create value through quality
  • Stick to the local and individual charm to differentiate your business from big chains and other smaller competitors
  • Use technology to enhance the customer experience. This is something a growing number of clients have come to expect.

Of course great food is absolutely critical to the restaurant experience, but it’s more than that, that will keep customers coming back for more. By making sure that your knowledgeable staff are treating customers like people, are tuned in to their specific needs and closing the experience with as much respect as during the meal, you are increasing the chances that your customers come back for a repeat performance.

Elina Barklon

Elina Barklon

Naturally drawn to synonyms, Elina relishes language, culture and precision in her explanations. "The mind is like a parachute — it works best when opened.” ― Elina and Sir Thomas Robert Dewar