How many times have you said, “Let’s go out and have an average meal at an average restaurant, where we’ll leave feeling satisfied—but kind of…meh.”
Chances are, if you’ve ever experienced “meh” in a bar or restaurant, you’ll never go back again, and you might even discourage others from going.
Unfortunately, too many restaurant and bar operators haven’t turned their attention to discerning how their venue is actually experienced by their guests.
That’s a big miss!
Re-Think Your Reason for Being in Business
If you—like most operators— think your venue exists to provide food and drinks to paying customers—you’re missing the mark and doomed to follow the many who won’t make it. You have to ask yourself:
What sets us apart from all the other places who sell food and drinks?
Why would someone choose to spend money with us instead of another place?
When we rethink our reason for being in business, from a company that provides great food and drink, to an organization devoted to consistently delivering remarkable experiences for our guests—that’s when we set ourselves onto a remarkably different path.
No matter the size of your operation—whether you have 5 employees or 5000—shifting the way you look at your business coupled with implementing a few simple (and proven effective) strategies will separate you from the rest of the pack.
Get Your Team on the Same Page – ONE Page
Good on you for taking the first step to retraining your brain! With this simple mind-shift, you’ll put your organization on a path that only successful operators travel—one that offers only exceptional experiences to guests—great food and drinks are a bonus!
To pull this off, you’ll have to also rethink the way you train and coach your team.
Start by trashing that ridiculous “employee training manual”. You know the one: A massive 3-ring binder that lays out (at a minimum) 14 rules about uniforms and appearance, 25 “essential” reports and forms, 17,000 sanitation requirements, yadda, yadda, yadda.
C’mon. It’s a boring diatribe filled with lots of words, theory, and jargon—but no clear blueprint for how your team should interact with guests in order to achieve the one crucial goal: To deliver remarkable experiences to every guest, every time.
Distill Your Service Strategy Down to ONE PAGE.
Think about it this way: Is it easier to teach your team the steps of a one-page document or the entire contents of “The Manual”?
We teach our coaching clients this simple idea: If you can’t fit your service strategy on the back of a napkin, you don’t have one.
Getting your strategy down from a ream of paper to just one page can feel a bit overwhelming. But it’s just a matter of reverse engineering.
Start with the end in mind—guests who know they can always count on you to deliver unique, remarkable experiences. Next, figure out what it takes to get there. Finally, decide how can you provide a simple roadmap for your team.
Find Your Unique Brand of Customer Service – The X-Factor
It’s not hard to distinguish the difference between poor and average customer service. (One really grinds your gears and leaves you feeling at the very least, disappointed; the other generally meets your emotional and physical needs—not a high bar.)
But we’re far less clear on how to articulate the differences between good customer service and remarkable customer service.
The distinguishing factor—your X-factor— is the way you and your staff engage with people when they’re with you. It comes down to the type of experience you deliver—apart from great food and drinks. That X-factor is WHAT experiences you consistently deliver and HOW your guests feel while in your company.
As the owner or senior operator of a bar or restaurant, it’s critical that you’re not only able to design a service strategy that excites your customers, but one that’s simple for your staff to routinely deliver.
What the Top 1% Know About Running Successful Bars or Restaurants
We know from working with thousands of bar and restaurant operations—that the top 1% of operators find ways to deliver remarkable experiences every day—they have a plan to get there and they execute it.
Successful operators know:
- You need a base of happy customers who love spending money at your venue, and who routinely return.
- Staff should encourage an optimal spend from guests.
- Your guests should always have a reason to return
Bonus points for customers who are so thrilled with their experience that they tell friends!
We’ve just set the cornerstone for your service strategy!—the WHAT—for your service strategy!
A 3-Prong Service Strategy
- Make People Smile
- Encourage an Optimal Spend
- Provide a Reason to Return
Running a bar or restaurant is HARD—but don’t over-complicate the areas where you need simplicity.
Let’s get back to reverse engineering. Now that you’ve identified WHAT to do, let’s figure out HOW to do it.
In its most simplified form, great customer experiences boil down to two things:
Deliver more of what your customers love and less of what they hate.
What do your customers LOVE?
There is no blanket answer to this question. Of course all human beings have a need to be recognized, engaged and appreciated—but those are bare minimums for the hospitality industry.
The answers to this question are as varied as the types of venues; from a casual sports bar to elegant upscale dining, and anything in-between.
It’s about your particular customers. Here’s a few examples to get you started:
Our customers love:
- creative cocktails
- eco-friendly products/practices
- competitive pricing
- feeling like an insider
- random acts of kindness
- tailored experiences
- new options
Tip: If you’re not sure what your customers love—ask them!
What do my customers hate?
- feeling invisible
- being misunderstood
- long waits for food or drinks
- poor manners
- staff who are just going through the motions
- insincere apologies
- inconsistency in food/drinks
Tip: Not sure what your customers hate? Type your venue’s name into Yelp or Google and look at the reviews!
Distill the Process Down to a 3 x 3 Matrix
We know to deliver remarkable service we need to make our guests smile. We also know that to be more profitable, we need to encourage people to spend more money and time with us. So, how do we make that happen?
Let’s take a look at what we have so far, and add 3 simple ideas or concepts under each of the steps.
Make people smile
- make them feel important
- share the story of the venue
- make a connection/make it personal
Encourage an Optimal Spend
- offer suggestions
- be an order maker / not an order taker
- superior knowledge of food/drink menu
Provide a Reason to Return
- mention an upcoming event/attraction
- exceptional attention to detail
There you have it! A simple, succinct plan to delivering your unique brand of customer service and a plan to increase your bottom line.
But what about when things go south, as they inevitably do?
When Things Go Wrong – Have a Plan & Empower Your People
Of course things will go wrong sometimes. Maybe the steak is overcooked, or the customer had to wait too long. It could be that the restrooms weren’t clean enough or the margarita was too tart.
No matter the issue, when a customer has a bad experience, it’s time for your team to step up.
To do this, bar and restaurant operators have to give staff both the permission and the authority to make amends. In the majority of situations, the front-line staff can quickly remedy problems and put a smile back on the guests face.
Get your team involved in the recovery plan—and lay out a plan consisting of no more than 5 steps to recovery.
Often, all it takes is a sympathetic ear, an empathetic response and a sincere apology.
Empower your whole team by establishing clear recovery steps.
- Acknowledge the complaint
- Offer a sincere apology
- Take action to please the guest
- Alert manager of issue
- Thank them for the chance to make it right
You’ve satisfied the guest, made them feel heard and understood, and taken steps to make it right. In the same process, you’ve made your staff feel empowered, like they are an essential part of the organization.
You’ve turned a tough situation into a win!
You Are More Than a Bar or Restaurant Operator
You are creating an organization that creates happiness through staff involvement, clearly defined strategies and customers who experience genuinely caring service.
But if you’re looking for something more tangible, by changing the way you think about your business and re-defining your service strategy you’ll see:
- Increased revenue generated by improvements in cost per customer (customer
staying longer/spend more) and return business
- Increased productivity arising from happier, more engaged staff who are clear on
the company’s brand and who feel like they have a voice
- Decreased staff attrition, benefiting the business by keeping good employees on
deck longer (they’ll feel like they’re an important part of the business)
- A decrease in customer complaints as your staff is empowered to take reasonability over issues and implement a service recovery processes
- Increase in equity value of the business as you become well known throughout the community
- Increase in revenue thanks to unique and successful service delivery process
Barmetrix is a hospitality services and coaching business. Since 1999 we have coached over 5,000 bar/restaurant operations teams in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.