In most of the lectures I give my students, or any time I meet with a consulting client, I revisit the same theme: It is all about getting them to come back. By them, I mean the customer. We are never in it for one transaction, but multiple. We are interested in the lifetime value of a customer.
An easy way to do that
There is no easier way to get customers returning over and over again to your place than by simply saying hello. Everyone on the staff. Yes, that means back-of-the-house employees, too. I have eaten at many an open-kitchen restaurant where the cooks just keep their heads down and make no effort whatsoever to engage the customers just a couple of feet away.
If you are going to have an open kitchen…
Train that staff to greet the guest. Every time (I know, I’ve never used that one before). Hopefully with a smile. At least look up once in a while. I know what you are doing back there is important, and requires concentration, but there is still no excuse. Anyway, the customer sees it that way, and that, unfortunately is all that matters. The customer’s perception.
I just ate out at one of my favorite places in town. We stood at the door for close to five minutes as waiters, hosts, bussers, etc., zipped by us, before someone actually came up and greeted us. I understand people in restaurants get very busy, but NO MATTER HOW BUSY YOU ARE you can still say hello, or, “…someone will be right with you…” That little recognition and the customer will patiently wait for a long time. Without it you run the risk of losing that customer forever. I have been known to just turn around and leave.
And use their name if possible
People like to feel important. Using their name whenever possible will help you to do that. A phrase I use often in my restaurant management class, “…it will make them feel like a million bucks…” really rings true.
Train your staff
Yes, that same old theme. Train them to do things the way you want them done. Make sure they are saying hello. Right away. Every time. You probably will have to retrain, as well. Unfortunately, most employees need reminding. How I wish we lived in a world where we could show people how to do something once, and then they would do it perfectly every time after that. But we don’t…
This goes for you, too
Lead by example. Are you going out to the customers and practicing table visits? You should be. Whenever I consult, the owner/chef/manager thinks that I am going to just find flaws with the business ordering, or receiving, or costing, or marketing, etc., but most of the things I find needing improvement are with personnel. Almost always it is the owner/manager/chef that I need to remind of what they are doing.
They don’t like that
They usually don’t like it when I tell them that they need to look in the mirror, but how can you expect the staff to do it–whatever it is–if you are not practicing it yourself?