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Restaurants everywhere are striving to provide comfortable, memorable, and enjoyable dining experiences. Sometimes, the quality of customer service is the deciding factor in whether a diner returns to your establishment.

First Impression

It’s important to put your best face forward, literally, for first-time guests. When people enter your restaurant, they should be greeted by your “ambassadors” — the front-of-the house staff, servers, bartenders and host/hostess. As a restaurant ambassador, it’s important that these employees are well-groomed and have a positive attitude. These are the first staff members a customer will encounter, so make sure they embody the restaurant’s culture and represent your brand in a positive way.

In addition to staff, public areas of the restaurant should be clean and inviting. The waiting area should have plenty of seating so people aren’t standing around or blocking the restaurant’s flow. Bathrooms should be monitored for cleanliness (especially on busy nights) and well-stocked with supplies.

Greetings and Salutations

Restaurants are learning people will use self-service kiosks when available. By now, the majority of consumers are so accustomed to technology that they desire and even expect it in their daily activities. More than half of the respondents in a 2010 Hospitality Industry survey said they would be more likely to visit a QSR that offered self-service kiosks (up from 40% the previous year). At the Fenway Panera location that was the first to deploy the new platform, orders placed at the touchscreen kiosks account for 60% of their lunchtime transactions.

Timing is Everything

No one relishes the idea of a long wait when they’re hungry. Evaluate your business to gain insight into how many employees are needed for a given shift and schedule adequate coverage. Don’t cut corners and assign one server to serve a large number of diners. Skimping on resources sets up your staff to make mistakes and to delay service, which ultimately cost time and money to correct.

With the optimal number of servers scheduled for the shift, they should be trained to keep the restaurant operating at maximum efficiency, which means acceptable wait times, accurate orders, satisfied customers and higher profits and gratuities for the staff. Tables should never feel like they are being rushed or ignored, so the right timing is key. A rushed dining experience isn’t a pleasant one, or one that people will want to repeat. Instead, check on tables at a reasonable pace so your guests can have private conversations, finish their meals at their own pace, or enjoy dessert or an after-dinner beverage.

It’s inevitable that timing issues will arise, and these cause a ripple effect throughout the restaurant. Servers who make errors in-putting their orders, for example, force the kitchen staff to remake selections that were prepared incorrectly. This causes a kitchen backup, which translates into guests at each table needing more time to finish their meals. This may cause slower table turns and longer wait times to be seated, even for people who have reservations. Lower table turnover means fewer sales and fewer tips. This is never a good way to start out a shift, so timing and accuracy are important for your business as well as for your customers.

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