Restaurant Staff Poring Serving Red Wine to Customers

In recent years, Americans have experienced a major shift in priorities when it comes to what they expect out of a restaurant experience. In fact, while dining out originally centered on meal and service quality, now restaurant operators must also think about tailoring the guest experience before a customer walks through the front door.

With this shift in expectations, restaurant operators must understand customer preferences on a deeper level and use this information to create above and beyond guest experiences for each and every diner. But what matters most to today’s guests?

Remember Guests’ Names

In a recent industry report published in collaboration with YouGov, SevenRooms discovered that customers want to feel special when choosing to dine out. The good news is, there are small ways you can tailor service to have a big impact on guest experience—and can keep your guests coming back time and time again. Here’s what guests say would make their dining experience stand out:

  • 51% of Americans say that a waiter simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their dining experience stand out51 percent of Americans say that a waiter simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their dining experience stand out.
  • 29 percent of Americans think that it is a waiter remembering and taking their food allergy into account.
  • 35 percent of Americans claim it’s being greeted by name by a host.

Now, you might be asking: “How can I ensure my staff is greeting guests by name and remembering their food allergies?” With turnover rates in the hospitality industry reaching over 70 percent, it can feel like a daunting prospect. That’s where restaurant technology systems come into play.

Look for point-of-sale and reservation systems, like Upserve and SevenRooms, that allow you to capture detailed guest data—from their name and phone number, to email address, preferences, spend history and more.

By using the data contained in these systems, you can create a solid foundation of knowledge for new employees during their onboarding training. For example, by attaching a guest’s picture to their profile in a reservation system, employees can be trained to recognize guests based on their picture and say, “Welcome back Mr. [last name], we’re happy to see you again,” to your regulars, whether it’s their first day on the job or they’ve been working at the restaurant for 10-plus years. Robust data paired with training will help keep your staff on the same page and can help you offer above and beyond experiences to your guests each and every time.

Overview of customers and a waitress in restaurant interior

Surprise and Delight Guests

Remember one of your best dining experiences. Did it include something given to you on the house? Every guest wants to feel like a VIP when dining out, and the easiest way to make your guest feel like a rockstar is to give them something complimentary when they’re at your property. In fact, according to a recent survey, something as small as a treat on their birthday or glass of something bubbly can really make your guest experiences shine. For example:

  • 50 percent of Americans say that a complimentary birthday dessert would make their dining experience stand out.
  • 35 percent of Americans say that it is a complimentary glass of wine with their meal.

Trying to figure out what complimentary offering will wow your guest? When you link a point-of-sale system to your reservation system, this data is already at your fingertips. Look through order history to determine a guests favorite appetizer or sweet treat. Your guest will be flattered you remembered their favorite menu item, and you’ll be building guest loyalty for life.

Listen to What Matters to Guests

Consumers have thousands of restaurants to choose from in your market, so it’s important to understand what will make them pick your spot to make a reservation. Outside of quality of food, which 83 percent of respondents continue to view as a high priority in decision-making, here are the other factors that determine where a guest will book their next dining experience:

  • 37% of americans rely on the reputation of your restaurant to determine where they will dine out37 percent of Americans rely on the reputation of your restaurant to determine where they will dining out.
  • 52 percent of Americans say that a convenient location has the biggest impact on where they choose to make a reservation.
  • 30 percent of diners said that price discounts factor into where they plan to eat.

Though location might be out of your control, when it comes to reputation and food quality, your team is in the driver’s seat. Using a technology platform that enables you to capture and act on guest feedback before it hits Yelp or TripAdvisor is a great way to ensure you are offering five-star guest experiences. Most importantly, you should choose a vendor that does more than automate survey emails and collect responses, and instead surfaces feedback in an easily digestible way that your team can act on.

Are guests complimenting your new bartender? Or your steak being too salty? Put a process in place to review and follow up with complaints and compliments, immediately addressing both positive and negative reviews. By acting on this feedback, you are demonstrating to customers that guest experience is a priority and can ensure that these diners will continue to visit your location. Plus, you can incentivize guests who provide feedback with a discount or complimentary offering on their return visit, continuing the guest loyalty engine.

To learn more about how you can improve guest experience, download SevenRooms’ Turning a Meal into an Experience industry report.

Loyal regulars spend 67% more at restaurants than new guests do. With effective guest communication, you can make every guest a loyal regular.

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Written by   |  
Bianca McLaren is the Senior Manager, Brand Marketing at SevenRooms, where she heads up brand awareness, communications and event programming. Based out of SevenRooms’ New York HQ, she's always on the hunt for the best sushi in the city.