Want to increase your revenue for almost no cost? Focus on customer satisfaction.According to a study by Harvard Business School, the difference between a "satisfied" and "very satisfied" customer is an 82% annual increase in revenue. A satisfied customer frequented Starbucks on average 4.3 times per month, while a very satisfied customer frequented 7.2 times per month, spent more each visit, and remained a loyal customer for almost twice the amount of time.
It follows that restaurant owners can greatly increase their revenue not by attracting new customers or trying to appease the already dissatisfied ones, but by directing efforts towards increasing the satisfaction of the customers they already have.
So how do we accomplish this? One way of looking at the issue of satisfaction is by avoiding (and fixing) the things that customers commonly complain about. Namely, these are:
- long wait times;
- a loud atmosphere;
- lack of cleanliness;
- food quality;
In this article, we show you what each of these complaints mean, as well as offer proven ways to avoid them.
#1: The Service is Not Fast Enough
Customers, particularly Millennials, value fast service. This is largely why McDonald's remains the most frequented restaurant by Millennials and every generation in America. So what, exactly, is fast service? It includes:
- Not waiting more than 15 minutes for a table to open up past the reservation time.
- A short wait time to order food and drinks.
- A reasonable wait time for food to arrive, particularly with the first round of drinks and appetizers.
- A very minimal wait time for the check to arrive.
While you can't speed up certain aspects of meal preparation, like how fast that burger or steak needs to cook to get to medium-well, you can increase other aspects of the speed of service by implementing policies and incorporating technology.
Policies are easy to implement because the are essentially no-cost solutions. For instance, floor managers can ensure that bartenders prioritize pouring drinks for newly arrived customers. By that same token, kitchen managers can ensure prep cooks fire off appetizers as fast as possible.
Technological solutions can include online, table, and/or kiosk ordering, where customers order and pay through apps or mobile websites. This cuts the waiting time for ordering and paying altogether, and customers appreciate the convenience. Moreover, these technological solutions are relatively inexpensive and have great ROI.
#2: Turn the Volume Down
Acoustics are of paramount importance to many restaurant goers - if they can't hear their friends, many are likely to never return again. Noise is of particular concern to older patrons who find it more difficult to distinguish speech from background noise.
In addition to turning the volume down on background music, here are a couple of other considerations:
- Furnishings: Restaurants opting for modern furnishings look sleek, but will be louder simply because the hard surface finishes will bounce noise around a room. Fortunately, companies like Resonics offer acoustic panels for walls and ceilings to dampen noise.
- Exposition Kitchens: Restaurants with open kitchens can look great and be entertaining for diners, but the noise of burners, clanging pots and pans, and everything else will spill over into the dining room. Short of deciding to close the kitchen off, acoustic panels can serve to dampen the noise in and around the dining room and kitchen.
Cleanliness in terms of dirty utensils and restrooms are Americans' top gripes about restaurants, according to Consumer Reports. While not as high on the list of concerns, restaurant patrons also find sloppy-looking servers disconcerting as well.
Cleanliness can be easily remedied with some simple policies and good management. Ensuring regular bathroom cleaning schedules, regularly checking the cleanliness of utensils, promptly bussing tables, and providing a uniform and/or proper break room and changing area for servers are easy solutions but will go far in terms of meeting customers' expectations.
#4: Food Quality
Even though McDonald's is still America's most frequented restaurant, patrons are willing to pay more for good quality food set a reasonable prices. Good quality food includes providing the basics, such as:
- Food and drinks served at the correct temperature.
- Food looking and tasting as described on the menu.
- Food and drinks being served on a clean plate or glass by (again) a hygienic-looking server.
Some quality control and management by kitchen and wait staff will remedy all of these problems. However, beyond the basics, restaurant owners should start considering what constitutes "good quality" food, as expectations amongst clientele are increasing.
For instance, with the advent of reality shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen along with the pressures of social media to create "Instagrammable" moments, diners have increasingly higher expectations when it comes to food presentation and ingredients. Younger generations also have expectations regarding food ethics, which may explain the popularity of "socially responsible" restaurants like Chipotle and In N Out amongst youth. Specifically, 75% of youth want to see brands to give back to local communities and/or use local products, and would opt to support socially conscious businesses over their competitors.
Another item near the top of Consumer Reports' list of what most irritates diners is etiquette. More specifically, customers expect servers to do the following:
- Be polite and not condescending.
- Not call customers by pet names like "honey" of "dear".
- Know which plates to server to whom.
- Not remove plates before diners have finished.
- Allow customers to take their time and not rush them out of the restaurant.
Again, a simple policy system that addresses these issues in a weekly or monthly staff meeting can remedy many of these common issues. So long as servers understand your (and customers') expectations, they can work to provide customers with courteous service.
In addition to everything discussed above, perhaps the most important is to be consistent with what you offer no matter who is working or what time of day someone walks into your establishment. This serves to encourage people to frequent your establishment more because they'll know that no matter what, they'll be receiving fast, efficient, and courteous service along with good quality food.