By now, you’ve heard about all the can’t-miss trends for the year. Coyle Hospitality came to many of those same conclusions (allergy awareness, local and sustainable, quick and healthy and elevated comfort food), but the marketing research firm also unearthed some nuggets of service insight from its mystery shopping evaluations.
They seem simple, yet are critically important and often overlooked, says Jim Coyle, the firm’s founder and president. Here are five tips based on the company’s 2013 data from more than 6,000 unique evaluations at 755 restaurants.
• First impressions count. Basic courtesies and name usage can put you ahead of the competition, from the first phone call all the way to the check being paid.
• Chivalry is dead. Mystery shoppers noted doors were only opened for guests half the time.
• Ask specifically for a sale. Suggesting a specific drink at the table engages guests and increases the likelihood of an order and ultimately revenue. Unfortunately, servers only did this a third of the time. Also, servers offering desserts by name after the meal makes it harder for guests to decline. Servers only do this half the time.
• Personal touch matters. More than half of guests never had contact with a manager or supervisor during service. Attention from management makes customers feel like guests and elevates the experience.
• Sell more than drinks at the bar. Bartenders only tried up-selling about half the time. Suggestive selling, like at the table with drinks and desserts, works just as well at the bar, especially with food, says Coyle.
“These things drive our clients crazy,” says Coyle about the all-too-common mistakes. “It’s all about being personable, no question. Employees are very task-driven and transactional in a restaurant. It’s all Sales 101 stuff: Ask a question that will elicit a response, not just yes or no. And using a guest’s name is a lost art.”
Leveraging the service tips with the trends led to these suggestions from Coyle:
When guests call, engage them and ask about preferences. Offer healthy drinks during service. Be more open to menu customizations, so diners can substitute items and make the experience more personalized. Managers should be working the floor and engaging guests beyond the obvious, “How is everything?” And ultimately, guests want to feel appreciated, so hold the door for them, thank them and ask them to come back again.