4 Things Restaurants Can Do to Improve the Customer Experience

It’s Friday night and time to get the family ready for our weekly dinner out. Picking the restaurant is always a tough decision for us.

After a family vote, we make a decision and head to a local Mexican restaurant. We park, walk in, and are greeted. The host informs us of the 20 minute wait time, which is not unusual for a Friday night. Luckily, the wait time ended up being only 10 minutes. The children were able to play on the playground, so the time went by quickly.

We are seated at a booth in the corner. I love tucked away tables. My husband and I dig into the chips and salsa, while our kids color their menus.

First, the drinks.

We order our drinks and decide on our entrees. When my drink arrives, I notice a faint pink print of lips on the rim of my glass. I normally use a straw, but I would still like a glass without another person’s DNA on it!

At the same time, my husband unrolls his napkin and notices his fork looks more like a garden weasel. Does the staff even check this stuff?

We send my drink back and ask for another fork for my husband. No big deal. These things happen. My new drink arrives but I now feel like I have to inspect it with a magnifying glass.

Here comes our food!

My husband gets his meal, my kids get theirs, but where is mine?

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Yours will be right out.”

More chips and salsa are brought out in an attempt to “keep me busy” – well that’s how I felt, anyway. My family starts to eat.

10 minutes later, I receive my entree.

Everyone else at the table is halfway done with theirs, so I feel rushed to eat mine. I cut into my Monterey chicken. Wait. Is that what I think it is? I show my husband and he confirms. My chicken is not cooked all the way!  

Just then, I see the manager chatting it up with patrons. Perfect timing. He walks up to our table, clearly noticing the distress on my face. I was a bit embarrassed. I am not one to complain, but tonight was different. It had been one thing after another, so I felt I had to tell him about our evening.

I went through everything from the dirty glass to the undercooked chicken. The manager apologizes and explains that the kitchen is understaffed tonight. He then hands me a coupon for 50% off of our meal. With a cheesy grin and clammy handshake, he walks off to the next table.

Wow! Did he even hear me?

My husband and I agree: we will not be back to this restaurant. There are too many others in our area.

Unfortunately, these are common complaints in the restaurant industry. There are several things that this restaurant could have done to ensure repeat customers. Here are a few.

Clean Utensils and Usable Flatware

I had lunch with my friend and her family last week. There was lipstick on a glass. This happens so often it’s not even surprising anymore, but it is still just as gross.

As a customer, you wonder, “If this glass has not been cleaned thoroughly, what else has not been cleaned?”

Not many people want to eat at a dirty restaurant. It is important to have a good quality control system in place. The same goes with dirty silverware or bent and unusable silverware. The person who touches that piece and decides to still roll it up in a napkin is either lazy or oblivious!

Food Brought Out at Different Times

I’m going to refer again to my lunch last week with my friend and her family.

We all received our food at different times. I was finished with my food when someone at the table received hers. This was a counter service restaurant and we were on separate checks, so this is expected. However, it is not expected at a full-service restaurant.

Having never worked in a restaurant, I don’t know what it would take to fix this or how this happens in the first place. But from a patron’s perspective, it looks like poor planning or not caring.

My family and I ate out New Year’s Day. We were a party of 7. Everyone got their food except for my daughter, who ordered salmon. Two others at the table ordered the same salmon dish and received theirs with the rest of the table. We sat there looking around for 10 minutes wondering where her food was and what the holdup was. We would really have liked to get some communication from our server.

Do what it takes to get entrees out at the same time… without someone’s food being cold! If there is a problem in the kitchen and someone will not receive their meal with the rest of the party, please offer a reason and an accurate ETA.

Food Cooked Improperly

There is nothing more frustrating than getting your food, wiping the drool from your mouth and getting your fork ready, only to realize that there is something wrong with your entree. Either the food is undercooked, overcooked, or there is a large hair nestled in the cheese on top of your enchiladas.

I’m not Gordon Ramsay, but there has to be a way to ensure these things don’t happen as often. Whether it’s hair nets, meat thermometers, or visual inspections, the bottom line is, be proactive.

Treat every plate as if it were your own meal.

Handling of Customer  Complaints

I run a Facebook foodie group and when asked what complaints these foodies had of restaurants, several mentioned dissatisfaction in the way customer complaints were handled. The consensus was they felt brushed off and their complaints weren’t taken seriously.

Managers need to understand something. While some folks complain just to get a free meal, most simply want to be heard. Excuses do nothing but make the situation worse.

Respectful handling of the issue would get most customers to give a restaurant a second chance.

We all enjoy eating. Dining out makes the experience just a little bit better, especially when you’re with family and friends. There are so many restaurants doing it right out there and many new ones still on the learning curve. Taking the time to listen to customer feedback is crucial to the success of your restaurant.

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