Odds are, you opened your restaurant because you love food and meeting new people. But you migh find that you’re spending most of your time managing staff and checking in on the kitchen instead of connecting with your guests.
“It’s not just about the food anymore,” says Steve DiFillippo, owner and chef of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, with eight locations in the Northeast and Atlanta. “There are so many restaurants with great food now; the difference is hospitality and how guests are treated.”
The good news is, you don’t need to spend more money to be more hospitable. Let’s take a look at five ways restaurant managers can make more meaningful guest connections starting today.
1. Be present.
You have dozens of people vying for your attention on any given day, but your first priority should always be the happiness of your guests.
“It doesn’t matter how many restaurants you own or how busy you are, come out of your office and meet the guests and make them feel at home,” says Luigi Carvelli, owner of four restaurants in Florida, including DaVinci’s of Boca and Marco Prime Steaks & Seafood. “Customers like to meet the owner, so meet them.”
“Our customers have become loyal because we’ve built a rapport with them; they’re friends now,” says Bryce Krausman, co-owner of DW Bistro in Vegas. “We’ve found that by personally running the door and checking in with diners on the way in and out, we can set the tone for the customer’s experience before they sit down, and solve problems before they leave.”
Whether it’s through personal visits to the table, customer comment cards, a loyalty program or social media, find out what your customers like and want. Armed with this information, you can make every visit a best visit.
“Listen to your guests, ask questions and really care,” advises Carvelli. “Ask questions and find out what they like, and keep track of everything in a software system so you can reference it the next time they visit. Train everyone on your management team to engage with the guest in the same way.”
3. Be more social on social media.
When using social media to engage with customers, give it a personal voice and be social instead of using the page purely as a marketing vehicle.
“We use social media for a conversation with the customers, not just to showcase specials,” says Krausman. “We like to keep our customers in a two-way conversation, with our co-owner and executive chef Dalton Wilson using social media to showcase what he’s eating at home and what he’s inspired by; that really makes our customers feel like family.”
4. Get involved.
Carvelli reminds restaurateurs to be more involved with the community around them. “Become a member of the Chamber of Commerce, for starters,” he says. “We also have a sommelier who writes a wine column for a local paper and the response is incredible. We bring guests in for wine tastings and we’re also working on putting together a wine club.”
5. Go out of your way.
Nothing impresses a guest more than when you go beyond what’s required of you. Did they forget something at the restaurant? Offer to deliver it personally. Do they always rave about how much they love your bread? Surprise them with a free loaf to take home.
“It’s insane what we do to make our guests feel at home,” says DiFillippo. “My team sees what I do to go out of my way. We never say no. If we don’t have something, we get it! After 30 years, they’re still coming back.”