What do restaurant customers really want from your restaurant? Even more important than the food, service is a crucial factor that can make or break your business, according to a new poll conducted by Restaurant.com and reported by Restaurant Hospitality.
Nearly 95 percent of the more than 2,000 survey respondents say an outstanding server has the potential to make a restaurant meal memorable. However, these customers have high expectations for wait staff behavior. For example:
- Two-thirds of respondents expect to be greeted by a server within three minutes after being seated.
- Although having servers “auction off” food by asking who ordered what is a popular trend today, nearly three-fourths of customers prefer to have servers remember who placed which order.
- Once the food is served, 91 prefer to have the server check back with the table “once or twice”—but no more often, or it becomes intrusive.
- Guests respect servers. Ninety percent will ask servers to recommend dishes, and more than seven in 10 say they usually take the server’s recommendation. In addition, three-fourths say they have a favorite waiter or waitress at restaurants they patronize often; more than half will go so far as to ask to be seated at that person’s station.
Clearly, servers make a big difference in the guest experience. A separate study by NPD group found that more than 40 percent of restaurant customers are extremely loyal to the restaurants they like—so much so that they aren’t affected by promotions or specials. Even customers who admitted they look for bargains when dining out told NPD that “value” means more than just price.
What do these results mean for your business?
- Train your servers well. With servers having such a strong effect on loyalty and satisfaction, it’s worth taking the extra time to regularly make sure your staff’s service is up to par.
- Sometimes old ways are best. New trends such as having one employee take orders and another deliver the food don’t seem to sit well with restaurant-goers, who prefer a more traditional approach to service.
- Work to retain good servers. Many guests come to favorite restaurants again and again largely because of favorite servers—so it’s worth doing what you need to do to keep these valued employees happy.
Image by Flickr user squeaky marmot (Creative Commons)