In Atlanta, one thing we have going for us is food. Not just southern food, but all types of cuisines and world-class restaurants. Atlanta is home to some great restaurant experiences with many local restaurant groups expanding outside the city and some outside the state of Georgia. There are so many great choices, it’s never easy to decide where to eat!
(One day we’ll write a blog about how our team created a Lunch Blast Alexa app to help us with this conundrum. But back to the important stuff.)
According to the National Restaurant Association 2017 outlook, the restaurant-industry sales are expected to near $800 billion. But with rising labor costs, it’s more important than ever for operators to keep guests coming back. Meanwhile, consumers demand more new flavors and concepts, and restaurateurs are forced to continue to innovate. The booming restaurant scene isn’t just a challenge for chefs and their menus, but also for operators to create a unique experience that keeps guests coming back. Restaurants are complex businesses to operate, and even more challenging to ensure the best guest experience.
In order to thrive, restaurants need to win on all fronts, especially the four that we will highlight here. But they all have a common ingredient: the staff. Restaurants can’t win without their staff.
1. Customer Service
There’s no getting around it. While food is a focus in restaurants, a key ingredient is the service you receive as a first time guest. The chef can create amazing flavors and present delightful plates, but the lack of attentive service can leave a bad taste. If your customers have a poor first experience, there is very low likelihood of a return visit. Furthermore, a resulting bad review on review sites like Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor can quickly deter new guests from trying your establishment in the first place.
Your staff, collectively, have to solve this challenge. Customer service extends from the minute guests are greeted at the front door to the bus staff and often kitchen staff in open cook concepts. Everyone is responsible for a great guest experience and you have to make sure the staff is armed with the right information to serve the guests, no matter what role they play in the restaurant.
In today’s very competitive environment, restaurants need to differentiate themselves with a unique menu offering, carefully combining artful flavors and presentation accompanied by a solid selection of beverages. Customers demand sufficient wine lists and variety of food choices, with many looking for seasonal menus and special dishes. But how does staff keep up with all the changes and expansive offerings? If they miss line-up, how do you ensure they get all the information?
You have to encourage teamwork to share information with those that need it and make sure everyone is updated on the week’s specials. Without ample food and beverage knowledge, your staff will have a difficult time providing top-notch service. Capture short videos of the chef presenting today’s special or post announcements of special upcoming menu programs to keep all your team members informed so they can be the most knowledgeable.
Service execution comes through an enthusiastic staff. But it’s hard to maintain the expected service levels and culture if you’re faced with high turnover and constantly training new staff. Retaining your staff pays off with returning guests and consistent culture growth to maintain the competitive edge. Not to mention lower hiring and training costs.
Keeping staff engaged is a real challenge. New hires want to be productive as quickly as possible. Provide all the resources necessary for them to learn the menu and get up to speed. But also make sure there is continuous support with a consistent stream of communications and activities to build teamwork and equip them with the knowledge they need to perform their best. Invest in your staff so they grow, but treat them so well that they grow with the organization.
4. Unique Experience
A guest’s entire visit encapsulates everything you have to offer and the ultimate guest experience is your ability to execute with personable staff, impeccable service, great food and an overall memorable dining experience. The unique dining experience is a challenge given the range of choices in the market today.
Consider how you market your brand, especially through social media channels like Instagram and Facebook. Pictures of new specials increase awareness of new menu items and entice guests to come give it a try. Then match and exceed their expectations by ensuring all the details come together for them, from the facade, decor and greeting to the service experience.
Creating a competitive offering starts with engaged staff who are knowledgeable, customer-oriented and inspired by the team. Focus on communications with your front line to ensure you are delivering the best guest experience possible.