The Bar & Restaurant 10-Step Customer Service System That Will Keep Your Guests Coming Back Again and Again
I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing about customer service. It’s cliché and you’d rather have your nipples twisted with a pair of pliers than discuss customer service again.
However, in business we all know (or should know) that it is much easier and cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to find new ones, and the only way to get them to come back is great service. In other words, customer retention is everything to your success.
If you haven’t heard of The Rule of Three (straight out of the Jon Taffer playbook) in the bar/restaurant business, I’m going to give it to you right now, and I’d suggest you put your A.D.D in a headlock and pay attention because this rule is more necessary than cheese is to nachos.
THE RULE OF THREE
- The first time someone visits your bar, there is less than a 50% chance they will return.
- The second time they visit, they now have a 50% chance of coming back.
- The third time they visit, there’s a 70 percent chance they will come back a fourth time.
And increasing guest frequency by just one visit per month increases your revenue by up to 12 percent.
Those are some serious and exciting stats, folks. Simply knowing this frequency pattern motivates the hell out of me to hustle like a gangster and get people coming back to my bar.
That means you can’t just leave it up to your servers to decide what it is they can or can’t do out on the floor or you’re going to have a bunch of stragglers hiding out all over the place, texting and smoking in the parking lot while your guests are swiveling their heads all over the place looking for a refill on their Coke.
In other words, you need a system in place that they can easily follow and that you can easily enforce. And most importantly, the system should focus on one main theme: ATTENTIVENESS. How important is it?
Consider this before we get to the 10 Steps: Cornell university did a study a few years ago in which they did a survey for people who went out to eat for approximately 90 minutes so they could determine what was most important to them during their experience. I’m not going to waste your day going over all the results. All you need to know is this one:
There were three things that made up 40% of the guests OVERALL experience at the restaurant: 1) how quickly they were greeted at the door & when they sat down, 2) whether their drinks were kept refilled, and 3) how quickly they received their check when they were finished.
That’s it. That takes up like 2 minutes of their 90-minute experience, which means those three factors account for 2.2% of their time at the restaurant but made up 40% of how they viewed their OVERALL experience.
Are you kidding me? What does that tell us? Attentiveness and timing is everything. If there is one thing that people hate in this day and age…I mean really HATE, it’s to wait. And I get it. I can’t stand to wait at a traffic light without going all road rage and tearing the review mirror off the windshield. So keep that in mind when you’re creating your customer service system.
WHAT YOUR GUESTS REALLY WANT
What do your guests want, besides good food and drinks? They want a great experience. They expect it. And I know with those high expectations comes a few assholes that you’ll have to deal with.
I get it. I’ve served billions of them myself. But in their defense, they too have been working hard all day, possibly dealing with their own asshole clients, and they simply want to go out, forget their problems and be treated like royalty for a couple of hours.
And so if they choose your place to do that, you should be flattered and take on the challenge of giving them that experience. Instead, what happens?
They don’t get greeted. They see servers texting or walking by without acknowledging them. They don’t get treated well, and when their expectations aren’t met, they don’t come back, or worse they post an angry review on Yelp that you have to try and manage.
The solution, of course, is getting back to the fundamentals of customer service, and the great thing about having a defined system in place is that it’s easy for the staff to follow, and it’s easy for you to enforce.
So here we go. Use this as your Holy Bible to customer service, or customize it to make it your own. Either way, write it down so it’s law and then enforce it because for everyone 1 person who will speak will of you via word-of-mouth or a Yelp review, 11 will trash you. People love to bitch and whine. It must bring them joy.
10-STEPS TO GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
STEP 1: GREET THE GUESTS WITHIN 10 SECONDS OF WALKING THROUGH THE DOOR
This is why places have hosts & hostesses and why Walmart has greeters. The point is to get them off on the right foot and make sure they feel welcome from the giddy-up. If you don’t have a host, then a server or the bartender needs to acknowledge them, even if it’s a wave from the bar and asking them to come on in.
STEP 2: GREET THE GUESTS WITHIN 60 SECONDS OF SITTING DOWN
Don’t make them wonder if they’re at Chipotle and are supposed to stand up and go order from a window somewhere. Get to them quickly.
STEP 3: GET DRINKS DOWN WITHIN 2 MINUTES AFTER THEY’RE ORDERED
Hopefully the bartenders are competent enough to multitask and make the drinks quickly so the guests aren’t left waiting. Factors like these should be considered when creating a cocktail menu. Don’t make every drink have 9 ingredients and muddled or blended. It puts a heavy burden on the bartenders.
STEP 4: CHECK BACK WITH GUESTS WITHIN 2 MINUTES OF FOOD IS DROPPED
By that time they will know what’s missing from the table, whether they need ketchup or the wrong side for their burger came out. And someone ALWAYS needs ranch. God forbid we don’t get our ranch. They should just keep it on the table like they do with salt and pepper. But don’t make them sit there while their food is getting cold waiting for something they need.
STEP 5: KEEP DRINKS REFILLED AT ALL TIMES
We already talked about this one in the Cornell study so we know the importance of it. 40% baby. 40%.
STEP 6: WORK AS A TEAM AND HELP OUT YOUR CO-WORKERS
Teamwork wins championships and it makes the wheels of your business go round-and-round. Preach teamwork at all time. Hands in, hands out. Pick up dirty plates on the way to the kitchen, even if it’s not your table. Run food on the way out. Keep drinks refilled. Garnish drinks at the bar while you’re waiting for yours. Etc, etc. If your team will view the entire room as theirs instead of their own individual sections, you will dominate the customer service game.
STEP 7: BUS TO THE WOOD
This is probably my biggest pet peeve, when I see servers and bussers walk by tables that have napkins on the plates and they pretend it’s someone from high school they don’t want to talk to. Get it off the table when their done!
And not just the big stuff. Grab plates, napkins, silverware, straws, empty bar glasses, crumbs…grab it all. Make it look nice so they can finish up with some class.
In addition, when the table is completely cleared, it psychologically makes people feel like it’s time to go. We don’t want to rush them, but we don’t want them chatting for another hour either. We need to turn and burn baby.
STEP 8: OFFER COFFEE AND DESSERT
Dessert makes everyone happy, so get the table bussed to the wood and then see if they want coffee and dessert. If you don’t have coffee and dessert, why are you reading this step? Move on to Step 9.
STEP 9: BRING THE CHECK WITHIN 60 OF THE REQUEST
We know how important this is based on our earlier conversation, so get on your pony and get them their check. The only reason you might be delayed is if someone is in front of you at the POS. If you’re busy, ask for help. Step 6, in case you forgot.
STEP 10: SEE THEM OFF
You’ll notice I didn’t say, SAY GOOD-BYE. Time permitting, servers should actually be at the table as the guests are leaving and see them off as if it’s they’re family boarding a Carnival Cruise and they won’t see them for a month. Make them feel like their presence was important and that they are cared for. “Thanks for coming folks, it was great having you here. Get home safe. We hope to see you again. We really appreciate you coming in.” And make it heart felt.
Don’t just yell across the room from the kitchen, “SEE YOU LATER!” Although I will say, that’s better than not saying good-bye at all, it’s just a bit lazy.
That’s all, folks. You’ll notice I didn’t include things like: smile, be friendly, know the menu, upsell. Those things are very important of course, but I want you to have a system that’s easy for your staff to follow and then you can lace in those things once your system is in place.
Go get it done. Thanks for being here.
Cheers, until next time,
Dave, The RB