The personal touch is an element of the restaurant customer service experience that guests love. Of course, restaurateurs love it too. The more interaction you can have with guests, both face to face and online, the more chance there is to learn about what they like, what they don’t, and how they view your business. But how do you shape the exchanges that reap valuable insights and benefit your businesses’ bottom line?
The first step in gaining insight from your guests is to strike up a conversation with them. Being personal and conversational, whether in-person or online, will help lower the barrier and disarm customers who may think you’re diving into a sales pitch.
So what questions can you ask customers in your restaurant to find out more about what your guests think without sounding like you’re taking a tableside poll?
We’ve put together a list of things to ask customers before, during and after the meal that will set your staff up for success.
But first, remember this…
Asking the right restaurant questions
Some of the best restaurant questions to ask guests focus on their personal tastes and who they are as people. It’s one thing to ask how the meal went in a rushed pass by, it’s another to stop and talk about the ingredients used in the night’s special. The more interested you are in them, the more likely they are to take an active interest in you and your business.
Here are a few of the questions that the best waiters and waitresses ask their loyal regulars.
- What’s a food you couldn’t stand as a kid but now can’t live without?
- Insert your name here: “The ______ Special.” If we served that dish on our menu, what ingredients would it include?
- What’s a food that no one can dislike (and if they do, they aren’t human)?
You might have noticed something: these questions have little to do with your specific restaurant menu. The questions are personal, and often a bit humorous. They aren’t pushing any sales pitch, but the insight could help Tony’s develop a better menu.
Not everyone is a conversationalist, although chances are your wait staff isn’t afraid to ask questions. Restaurant customer service is all about building relationships, of course!
Naturally, a little staff training goes a long way. If you want to try a little prompting, here are a few restaurant questions you can suggest your staff ask at their tables.
- Have you dined with us before? If the answer is “no”, provide some background on your restaurant and suggest dishes that are crowd favorites.
- What brings you in today? Perhaps a certain dish has called to your guest. Knowing this information will help you recognize some of the top items you provide.
During the meal
- Are you enjoying the dish tonight? Guests appreciate this question because it shows you care about their satisfaction.
- Is there anything else I can help you with? This question came from Restaurant Hospitality. It shows your server’s willingness to make the customer experience top-notch.
After the meal
- Is there anything you would have changed about today’s experience? This bold question may lead to some constructive criticism that could lead to a better customer experience.
Check Out Our Guide to Guest Communication
The elephant in the room: questions about the menu
Here’s something you have no choice but to train: questions about the menu. You can have a staff that’s well-rounded at building conversation and loyalty, but if they don’t know the menu from front to back, they aren’t going to be able to handle restaurant questions they receive!
Loyal regulars spend 67% more at restaurants than new guests do. With effective guest communication, you can make every guest a loyal regular.
A conversation goes two ways, naturally. And you can expect that when you ask a guest what brought them in, or how they are enjoying the meal, the menu might come up. You have to prepare your staff to handle questions about the menu with the right staff training.
Here are some questions you need to be sure your staff knows how to answer about your restaurant menu.
- What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
- How is [insert item here] prepared?
- Is this dish big enough to share?
- Can [insert item here] be prepared with [insert substitution]?
To be a good restaurant server means you have to work hard, train hard, and be a bit of a salesperson, too! When you can not only ask the right questions but answer them too, you’ll be much more successful.
Data helps restaurants connect with guests better
Thanks to restaurant technology and big data, asking the right restaurant questions is easier than ever! Now, you can keep track of favorite menu items, guest trends, and even server efficiency.
Technology has opened amazing doors for restaurant owners. You don’t have to guess about your top menu items anymore, nor do you need to speculate about the times of day you do the most business or your who your most efficient servers are. Participating in social media? How are you tracking the results? There are products and services, including Upserve, that can turn these powerful insights into the tools you need to make more informed decisions and grow your business.
Brendan Kownacki, a communications consultant for Black & Orange sums up the value of technology in an article from QSR Magazine
“Technology provides an open forum where customers are comfortable sharing thoughts and opinions when they are not solicited, and this means a natural reaction. Technology lets people react in the moment and off the cuff, so you get a very real representation of what people are thinking. All businesses want to hear positive reactions to their brand, but that is not always the most productive business decision, so it can be useful to get a very raw reaction from your customer base.”
Bottom line: good service matters, but it’s not always about training and server tips and tricks. Sometimes, it all comes down to good communication.
Still have more questions about guest communication? Get your restaurant guest communication guide.