Article: “Here’s why we’re not dining at your restaurant” (Jul.2006)

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excerpt:
“There’s a large serving of irony in the fact that at this point in our lives, when there’s so much to celebrate and we can easily afford restaurant meals, staying home has become the classier choice. In a community of dining spots — each advertising avidly for our dollars — we stay home and dine in.

…The real issue for consumer-minded restaurateurs with an eye on the bottom line is this: Upon reading and recognizing yourselves, will YOU try to improve?

Here are our complaints — almost too many to recount, but we’ll try…”

source: “Here’s why we’re not dining at your restaurant” by Miriam And Steve Rosen (Miami Herald, Jul.17,2006)

Opinion: Part II – Customer Feedback in the Restaurant Industry

Part II is an overview on the types and costs of methods restaurants use to solicit customer feedback, Part III will look at the challenges facing each method. To review the classifications used below, please click here for Part I. This Part II will cover two common methods, and another set of methods will be covered next time. 

1. "On the spot" restaurant solicited feedback

Description: This is when a restaurant worker (manager, waitstaff) asks the customer during or right after the meal about their dining experience.

Example: Restaurant employee asking about the dining experience: "How was everything?" 
 
Classifications: Instant, Pro-Active, Restaurant, Expense [Restaurant-Low/Customer-Hi]

Challenges: There are many challenges facing this method of soliciting customer feedback. More often than not, customers are not comfortable complaining about their dining experience to restaurant workers because they feel that complaining will not do any good, or that it is not worth the trouble or personal stress. As a result, customers will often say "everything is fine", leave a tip, and never return. Also, even if a customers does complain, it is possible that the feedback is not passed on and there may be no documentation of the complaint.

While the expense for the restaurant in using this method is low and easy to implement, the expense for the customer is very high as they are put "on the spot" if they are going to express criticism. The return on investment for the restaurant is high if a customer does complain, however the customer may feel that the ROI on complaining is not worth the expense when they are put "on the spot" for whatever reasons (e.g. dining companions).

This method is employee powered, meaning that its implementation is dependent on the restaurant workers. If someone forgets to ask or not pass on feedback, then it significantly impacts the usefulness of this method. Random sampling is not adequate for ensuring customer satisfaction, because each dissatisfied customer is an opportunity for Read the rest of this entry »

Opinion: Part I – Customer Feedback in the Restaurant Industry

There have been many articles written about customer feedback in restaurants. One feedback mechanism for restaurant customers is tipping, however recent research from the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly said that "The connection between service quality and tip sizes is tenuous at best, as shown by an analysis of 14 studies that examined the relationship between service and tips."

Another feedback mechanism is asking customers at the end of the meal, however an article in Entrepreneur Magazine states:

excerpt:
"The truth is, most people just don't complain. Conversations with your customers are most likely similar to this standard restaurant interaction: The waitress stops by your table to ask, "Is everything all right?" "Fine, fine," you mumble through a mouthful of cold potatoes and rubbery meat. But why don't you say anything? Because complaining is tough on everyone, including the complainer. So you just swallow (literally) the bad service or awful food and vow never to go back to that restaurant again."

source: "Getting Customers to Complain" by Andrea Obston (Entrepreneur Magazine, Oct.18, 2004)

Do restaurants really care about customer feedback? Here is one extreme example: Read the rest of this entry »

Opinion: “Get real, Operators: Consistently good service just a myth” (Feb.2006)

excerpt:

"Let's get real. While we all know that service is relative, there is no such thing as good, consistent service. It does not exist. I know that there are those who immediately will dismiss my comment or become indignant because I have never seen their operation, but I stand by the statement unequivocally…

Food, while it isn't easy, is easier to control than service….We do taste tests, product checks, line checks, temperature checks, and who knows what else. Food can be controlled.

Service cannot. No screen process, hiring process, personality evaluation, reference, or training program can adequately keep on top of every front-of-the-house person as is necessary.

The past 10 years have seen a staggering decline in the quality of employee in the workplace and turnaround isn't happening anytime soon. The challenge is to recognize the problem and do our best to counteract it. What we have done so far isn't working."

link: "Get real, operators: Consistently good service just a myth" by Joe Nuckolls (Nation's Restaurant News Magazine, Feb. 13, 2006) (fee-required)

WaiterBell Angle: The WaiterBell system helps address this restaurant issue. In combination with waitstaff training, good management, and active solicitation of customer feedback, the WaiterBell system helps ensure more consistent good service by empowering the customers to discreetly assist in preventing potential service gaps.

Here is an example without WaiterBell:

1. Customer realizes that they now wish to have some tabasco sauce for their meal. [At this point, there is a customer need, and the clock begins ticking. Potential service gap.]

2. Customer looks around for help. Sees multiple servers, but not their own, or are unable to make eye contact with their server. [The clock continues ticking, the customer begins to feel frustrated. Service gap has occurred. The consequences of the service gap will be determined by the amount of time to receive service and the customer. Note: The manager and server may never be aware of the consequences or that a service gap has occurred]

Here is an example with WaiterBell:

1. Customer realizes that they now wish to have some tabasco sauce for their meal. [At this point, there is a customer need, and the clock begins ticking. Potential service gap.]

2. Customer presses WaiterBell. Someone from the waitstaff (either their server or a supporting team member) sees the table number on the WaiterBell display and attends to the customer's need. [Potential service gap prevented.]

Opinion: Word of Mouse: People are typing…

The internet has allowed restaurant reviews and word-of-mouth to become easily associated with a restaurant through search engines. Here are examples of popular restaurant review sites that allow people to post about their dining experiences. Some sites cover cities all over the country, and some cover only local:

nationwide:
Citysearch.com 
Yelp.com
Dine.com  
We8there.com 
Chefmoz.org
Zagat.com (subscription-based)
and more…

local:
Sfsurvey.com  
Jatbar.com

Add this to the restaurant reviews posted online by newspapers and the discussion forums such as Chowhound.com, there is no question that in todays internet age, more and more people are eager to share their dining experiences online.

WaiterBell Angle: We believe that with the WaiterBell service, a restaurant can prevent poor dining experiences due to accidentally neglectful service. A dissatisfied customer can easily post their experience on a restaurant review site, discussion forum, or personal blog, which can then appear when someone else is searching for that restaurant online (see "Brown Pelican Restaurant" example in the previous post). WaiterBell can resolve one of the main reasons why someone may be dissatisfied with a restaurant.

Opinion: Word of Mouth, Internet, and Restaurant Customer Service

Restaurants wish to build repeat business, however to do that they must continue to get new diners to try their restaurant. How does that usually happen? In a May 1998 Restaurants USA article called "Drawing Diners to Your Door" it states that "The two most popular sources of restaurant information for consumers, however — restaurant reviews and word of mouth"

and goes on further to say:

"According to Tableservice Restaurant Trends — 1998, more than four out of five consumers are likely to choose a tableservice restaurant that they haven't patronized before on the basis of a recommendation from a family member or a friend."
Source: Restaurants USA

Read the rest of this entry »