Restaurant Customer Service: Standards & Examples

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will review some of the standards restaurants can implement to promote excellent customer service. We'll also explore the do's and don'ts in setting standards for restaurant customer service.

Customer Service

Imagine that you and a friend decide to head to the local pizzeria for dinner. You don't dine out often, so you're looking forward to a good meal and great service. Since it's not particularly busy, you start to wonder why, ten minutes later, no one has come to greet you.

Finally, the waiter comes up and asks if you're ready to order. You tell him you would like to hear about the specials and he just sighs and tells you he'll be back. He seems annoyed to be there, and irritated that you came in. Your nice dinner out just turned unpleasant.

Let's face it, we have all had similar restaurant experiences to at one point or another. The problem is, the level of customer service we receive at a restaurant can be the deciding factor on whether or not we will return, even when the food is excellent.

Let's take a look at some of the standards that restaurant owners can put into place to ensure a positive dining experience for their customers, and thereby maximizing the possibility of return business.

Ensuring Excellence in Customer Service

Successful restaurants all have two things in common: they provide excellent food and great customer service. Let's take a look at some of the standards they adhere to in order to promote a restaurant culture that promotes excellence in customer service, by looking at some important do's and don'ts.

Customer Service Goals

  • Do's - Successful restaurant owners have clear visions of their customer service goals, steps of service, and staff expectations. They have also articulated these visions in writing and incorporated them as part of the training process.
  • Don'ts - Don't assume that just because someone is transferring from one restaurant to yours, that they have a clear vision of the customer service expectations that your restaurant embodies. Everyone should know the expected performance standards, and no employee should be left to assume what they are on their own.

Provide Necessary Tools

  • Do's - Owners should ensure that employees have the tools available to them to provide the level of excellent customer service that is expected. This means that there should be enough silverware, glassware, plates, and menu inventory.
  • Don'ts - Restaurants who are consistently low on inventory not only project a poor reflection on their customers, but on their staff as well. When staff don't have the tools to perform their work efficiently, it becomes difficult for them to project a positive attitude, and eventually, they will stop caring about their performance all together.

Provide Encouragement

  • Do's - It's important to recognize that challenges in providing great restaurant customer service will always arise. As a restaurant owner or manager, it is important to address each and every challenge as it happens. Meetings should be held on a regular basis where expectations and standards for customer service are reviewed and encouragement and praise is freely offered.
  • Don'ts - Offering praise once a year during a performance review is not providing encouragement. Pep talks help, but not if they happen in a reactive manner or on an infrequent basis.

An Every Day Teaching Approach to Service

  • Do's - Daily attention and coaching needs to be given to remind staff of service standards. Motivational and inspirational message should be posted and changed frequently to let staff know they're important.
  • Don'ts - Don't assume that holding mandatory meetings every six months will instill a service excellence standard in all employees. Many employees have negative reactions to mandatory meetings to begin with and are unlikely to retain much information.

Hire the Right People

  • Do's - Hire people with an outgoing and friendly disposition who display an even-tempered attitude. Things can get heated in the restaurant business, so you want to make sure you have staff that are capable of smoothing things over.
  • Don'ts - Don't hire individuals that can't seem to take direction, fly off the handle, or appear generally unapproachable. No one wants a waiter or waitress that's angry.

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