family eating

“Please, let us know how we can improve by posting a scathing review on Yelp,” said no restaurant owner ever.

If there is anything that all restaurant owners know to be true it’s that it can be hard to collect honest guest feedback. Sometimes it seems as if only the negative experiences make their way to your ears, even if there are positive reviews floating around out there.

The good news is this: you can control the conversation and change the way guest feedback is collected.

Step 1: Observe First, Ask Second

On an average night, how many tables would you say your restaurant turns? Every single table, every guest at that table, is an opportunity to make observations that can provide powerful feedback without a single word spoken.

Here are some examples to get you thinking about what you might be able to observe…

  • Empty plates = delicious food
  • “No, thank you, I don’t want leftovers” could indicate the guest was unhappy with their meal
  • “My meal was OK, thank you” – food is meant to be descriptive and exciting. If you overhear a server getting a response like that, you may want to follow up
  • Tick tock. Tapping feet, and a table full of hungry guests could indicate the kitchen is backed up and they’re not happy about it.

Body language, and your ability to read it, is huge at this step. Through observation, you can make your way to step 2.

restaurant server setting down coffee

Step 2: Ask Open Questions

In the middle of a meal, no guest wants someone walking over while their mouth is full of food to ask about the meal. No matter what the real answer is, you won’t get much in terms of response. After spending some time observing your guests, you will begin to learn social cues and understand when (and why) the right moment to approach is.

Depending on when that timing is for your restaurant and your guests, here are some open-ended questions you can ask to build a dialogue and get honest feedback.

  • After the appetizer: How was your appetizer? What did you enjoy the most of the appetizers you shared? What did  you all order for your meal?
  • After the meal: What was your favorite part of the meal? What can you tell me about your experience tonight? How did the kitchen prepare your meal?
  • At the door: What can you tell me about your experience tonight?

These questions require more than a simple “yes” or “no” and that  gives your guests time to elaborate and give you more candid feedback.

Step 3: Build A Relationship

It’s important to approach new guests the same way you’d approach loyal regulars – like a close friend or family member. This allows you to build a relationship that is founded on trust. When your guests feel like they can trust you, they are more likely to be genuine and helpful with their responses and feedback.

Remember, it’s not just a one-time exchange, either. Be sure to follow up with guests as they come back for future visits to keep that relationship going.

With Upserve, you can build profiles on all of your guests using Guest Book, a turn-key system for tracking guest behaviors, regulars and spending habits. 


Written by   |  
In a perfect world, Theresa would spend her days reading good books and writing all the time... and she'd own all the shoes her heart desired. When she's not on the hunt for shoes, you can find this Rhode Island transplant on the hunt for food that comes close to "Long Island". Her favorite? Caffe Dolce Vita in Providence's historic Federal Hill.