Improve Restaurant Customer Service – Proper Floor Diagrams and Table Numbering

It is essential to post proper floor diagrams with position points in strategic areas of a restaurant in order to provide excellent dining room service. You cannot rely on the fact that the floor diagrams are in the computer system either.

Case in point #1: What happens when a new waiter, carrying 3 hot pasta plates, walks from the kitchen into a busy dining room alone and cannot distinguish which is the correct table where the food must arrive? Does the waiter put the 3 hot pasta plates down somewhere and then log into the computer to see which is the correct table? I don’t think so. The waiter is going to guess possibly resulting in a costly mistake of the food going to wrong table. If the floor diagram was posted properly in an inconspicuous location for the waiter to take a quick glance at, then the food arrives at the table quickly and smoothly.

Case in point #2: I recently had a situation at a restaurant where the owner was changing the dining room table numbers during the actual shift–spelling disaster. His explanation was that he needed to keep track of coupons being distributed for the restaurant’s marketing campaign which used a separate numbered table for each individual coupon.

The owner did not realize there was no way to provide superb restaurant customer service by using this system. It was no wonder that the delicious and delicately prepared food was quite often being brought to the wrong table by the dining room service staff. How many times does this happen in one night, one week, one month? Why not take a handful of money and just throw it out the front door?

Below, I have outlined a few simple, but important concepts to help improve restaurant customer service. There are too many operations that do not implement these concepts which cause many unnecessary mistakes. This translates into lost revenue and a poor service reputation that will repel repeat business.

Here is how it works:

Dining room floor diagrams, with correct numbering for each table and position point (explained below), must be clearly printed and handed out to all dining room service staff, with extra printed copies available for any future waiter that is hired. These essential diagrams must be placed in strategic locations for all staff to easily view, preferably out of the customer’s sight.

It is essential that position points are established if there is any attempt to improve restaurant customer service. Basically, any diner in the restaurant can be identified by a particular table number and seat number. Keeping up with position points will not be a problem for a waiter as long as all dining room service staff knows the arrangement ahead of time. It is most important to establish position point #1 for each table. The easiest way of determining the position point #1 is to have the customer’s back directly in line (or as close as possible) with a particular location in the restaurant, such as the kitchen, front/back door or perhaps a particularly visible item of decor.

Every customer whose back is closest to this particular location is position #1. Once that is established, rotate clockwise around the table, identifying each customer as position #2, 3, and so on. If a seat is empty, a position number should be assigned to it anyway, as a guest may be arriving late. If customer position points are not used, a waiter, holding hot and heavy plates, will be calling out dishes to customers because they do not know the exact position placements. This wastes precious time and energy, not to mention how unprofessional it looks. Moreover, the customers, often in mid conversation or laughter will be unnecessarily interrupted.

Position points must be clearly explained in every waiter training program. The main objective is for the waiter to serve the food and beverage accurately, safely and cleanly. This is more likely to happen when there is prior knowledge of the table and seat numbers far ahead of time.

The above concepts give the dining room service staff “a sense of where they are,” which is extremely important especially if the restaurant is new or the staff is new to the restaurant. It enhances the ability to communicate, which in turn, will improve restaurant customer service all around for everyone.

The Essentials of Restaurant Customer Service

Whether you are just starting out in the restaurant business or have been running one for years, restaurant customer service should be paramount in the daily operations of the business. A restaurant’s successes and failures are almost always centered on service, from the moment a customer enters your establishment to the time they leave it.

Restaurant customer service that excels beyond customer expectations leads to repeat customers and positive word of mouth for attracting new customers. It also sets the tone for your restaurant and the dining experience to come. After all, first impressions are everything for a restaurant.

Servers who are friendly, smiling and striving to please customers set a welcoming environment. To go beyond the basics, have the owner or manager open the door and greet each customer as they enter, chat with customers at the table during service, and thank them for their patronage as they leave. Excellent service means small, special touches, like presenting a mint with the bill, providing a complimentary drink or cake for a special celebration, and asking customers about their dining experience before they leave.

Some restaurant customer service tips that are often overlooked are answering the phone within two rings, providing diners with the servers name, establishing a rapport by asking customers open ended questions, inquiring about any food allergies and knowing area information for out-of-town guests.

Some restaurants take customer service to a whole new level with creative ideas, like offering a chefs table, presenting roses to female guests, providing a tour of the restaurants kitchen or wine cellar, having sweaters on hand for customers who might be chilly, printing commonly requested recipes on recipe cards, or providing guests with a little bag of cookies or chocolates as a remembrance.

Providing restaurant customer service that stands out from all the rest takes creativity and initiative among all employees. It might mean simply enhancing an already existing practice. For example, in addition to singing and presenting a cake to guests celebrating a birthday, have the entire staff sign a birthday card that includes your restaurants gift certificate. Or if reservations are being made to celebrate a special occasion at your restaurant, offer to supply balloons and disposable cameras.

In order for a restaurant to excel in customer service, management needs to express to all employees its definition of service and then empower them to do what needs to be done to exceed the needs of customers. It could be something as simple as providing an umbrella if it starts to rain as they are leaving for their cars, or having at the ready recommendations for an after dinner show or entertainment.

Restaurant customer service needs to exude from the front of the house to the kitchen. Greeters and wait staff can present the best in service, but if food presentation or attention to detail is lacking, all the efforts are for naught. All employees, regardless of the extent of their involvement with the customer, should be aware of how their performance will impact customer service.

Can Good Customer Service Give Your Restaurant a Competitive Edge?

We live in an age where everything is available at any price suitable for any budget. So you can get the same meal that costs a fortune at one restaurant and at a fraction of the price at another. Price is usually the main factor when it comes to competition, followed by the flavour and presentation of a meal. These factors are what every restaurant owner considers when managing their restaurant. Customer service is a side order and not usually the main factor. But can customer service be the main factor in giving your restaurant the competitive edge?

For many people if the customer service is bad, they will not return to that particular restaurant again. They will rather find another place to eat and avoid the bad service altogether. Noting that type of behaviour in customers, it could be used as a main factor in making your restaurant more competitive. Consequently, customer service would come first, followed by either price or food flavour and presentation. In other words, the prices of your dishes would not have to be the cheapest in your area as long as your customer service is better than anyone else’s.

Train your waiters in the way of good customer service. Encourage them to greet and smile every customer. They must treat every customer like they are special. People want to know that they are special and want to be treated well. The thought behind this is that a customer may have had a very bad day and being welcomed by a friendly waiter who is interested in making their dining experience as comfortable and delightful as possible, will instil a sense of calm and joy. Or a customer may not have someone in their life that makes them feel special at home so if your restaurant can make people feel great about themselves and their experience, they will return for more.

Give customers a special treat for visiting your restaurant. This could be anything small like sweets. Or you could treat them with a free basket of mini rolls. A complimentary mini cup cake is also a wonderful treat. Customers will appreciate these gestures and associate your restaurant with a positive experience. Naturally, whenever someone enjoys a positive experience they tell their friends. This creates a ripple effect where more people come to visit your restaurant.

Use the best catering equipment such as the best silverware and crockery. People know quality when they see it and this will make them feel special. The idea is that the special silverware is usually only used for special occasions in their own homes so being treated with quality silverware at a restaurant can go a long way for your reputation.