The dining experience of customers in the restaurant industry is complicated because of the degree of their engagement in the food and beverage service process. The perception of customers about the dining experience is heavily affected by their experiential and emotional reaction from the encounter with the food and beverage service provider. Restaurants must aim to attain a high degree of customer satisfaction, in addition to delivering quality products and service.
Customer satisfaction is very difficult to achieve because of the varied demands of customers and the competitive nature of the restaurant business (Lockyer 2005). There are tangible and intangible factors that affect customer satisfaction when focusing on the dining experience. Intangible factors are those services provided by restaurants which cannot be returned or reworked, while tangible factors of dining experience include the appearance, decoration and amenities provided by the restaurant, such as outside eating, parking and live entertainment.
There are also other components that affect dining experience, which include food production, health and safety, customer relations, marketing, and quality of service and production. Restaurants must note that customers expect both satisfaction from the quality of food through to the way it is served, to the surroundings’ appearance and atmosphere (Lockyer 2005). There are various situations a customer may experience during his or her dining in the restaurant. In a fast food or self-service restaurant, customers may experience being taken over by someone in a line and for the food attendant to entertain the more aggressive customer first.
Another scenario which a guest may encounter in a restaurant setting is when a food attendant gives in to the request of another guest who asks to be served first instead of attending to the needs of the other guests who have been there first. Just the same, a guest may have negative experiences in the restaurant, not only in the way the food was served but also the ambiance and appearance of the restaurant itself. In one instance, a customer experienced using an unsanitary and dirty restroom where the paper towels are on the floor because the thrash can was overflowing and no hand sanitizer is found in the dispenser.
A customer may also encounter an impatient or unprofessional food attendant who quickly disappeared when a guest was not ready to give his or her order. When it was time to take orders, the food attendant was no where to be found. Food and beverage attendants have a major role in the success of a restaurant business. A restaurant business is not simply about selling food and beverage products, but also deals with marketing dining experiences. It is important to train food and beverage attendants to become professional in dealing with the customers because they are the front line of service in the food service industry.
Thee food and beverage attendants have the responsibility of greeting customers, accompanying them to their seats, guiding them regarding the menu, taking orders, and serving food and beverages. They also play an important task of explaining to customers about food items and specialties, keeping dining areas and table clean, setting tables for new guests, and assisting co-employees during busy hours in order to improve the workflow of guests and customer service.
Food attendants can help a guest to have a wonderful experience in fine dining restaurants by being more attentive in a leisurely pace. They may also suggest particular dishes, describe ingredients used or explain how several menu items are prepared. Bar attendants are responsible for preparing drinks either taking orders directly from guests at the bar or through food attendants who take drink orders for dining-in customers. They also have the responsibility of checking the identification of guests seated at the bar to make sure they conform to the age requirement when buying alcohol products.
The most important characteristics of being a bartender are that they should have a wide range of recipes, the ability to mix and serve drinks quickly and accurately. In a fast food or self-service scenario wherein a guest takes ahead in a line of other waiting guests, it is important for food attendants to be vigilant in monitoring the line in order to deal with “pushing-in” issues before another customer does. It can also help prevent waiting customers to blame them for being irresponsible.
Food attendants should also always give a customer who cuts in the benefit of the doubt and must begin approach him or her with a gentle manner (Bacal 2004). It is important for a food or bar attendant to consider the customers who might be affected in addressing a situation wherein a customer requests to be served first than the other waiting customers. A food or bar attendant must give the customer in a hurry to ask other waiting customers to decide.
Dealing with this kind of situation reflects that the waiting customers are important to the employees (Bacal 2004). According to Hansen, Jensen, and Gustafsson, the important factors that establish the meal experiences of customers in a la carte restaurants are the restaurant interior, the main product, the company, the personal social interaction and the restaurant ambiance. They stress the importance of understanding the complexity of customers’ experiences to improve their satisfaction.
Many restaurateurs do not realize that offering superior customer service is not only a way for a food business to be ahead over its competitors, but also the need to empower their employees. Employee empowerment is giving an opportunity for a worker to decide on how to take care of the customers whether he or she follows or breaks the rules, procedures or policies of the company. Food and bar attendants must be trained or taught about customer service and need to be empowered to provide exceptional service to customers (Tschohl 1997).
Rich and Vavra offer five steps to improve customers’ dining experience: knowing the priorities of customers, understanding the performance benchmarks, the need to track the performance of the company, tracking the managers and staff’s attitudes, and providing opportunities for customers to give feedbacks about their experiences. Quinn suggests that the most important aspect of a good customer service is the smile. She emphasizes that smile is the first step to having smooth interaction between a food or bar attendant and the guests, enabling the food attendant to serve the guests better.
Customer service does not only depend on a few individuals, but also involves each member of the staff because they establish an important link to improving an effort to maintain cordiality and superior customer service. Quinn also stresses the importance of having a staff who is a good listener, starting right from taking a guest reservation, and is multi-lingual to address language barrier. A customer satisfaction survey provides restaurateurs a quantitative view concerning the opinions and attitudes of their guests.
The survey provides facts on what a guest wants, what he or she expects and his or her plan of returning again to the restaurant. It can describe the demographics of the customers and their insights into food quality, menu value and pricing, menu selection, waiting times, quickness of service, restaurant decoration and location, overall dining experience, and food attendant’s knowledge of menu items, friendliness, and professionalism.
By addressing all the concerns of customers, restaurant businesses have discovered that satisfaction surveys encourage positive feelings from the customers because they demonstrated their care regarding customer opinions, repeat business, and increased referrals by existing customers. Developing a customer service radar is another useful way to identify targeted markets. A table radar helps a food attendant to know the needs of customers before they actually ask for assistance.
Food attendants with table radar skill have the capability to read the face and postures of the customers and to determine subtle gestures that allow them to know that the customers need something. Once a food attendant or a customer service representative become more skilled at recognizing their customers, they will be more comfortable in dealing with the customers and will be more confident in affirming the choice of the customer and providing customer satisfaction (Nusbaum).
Another approach to apply target marketing in a restaurant business is to update the menu boards. With the emergence of digital media in the marketing world, digital menu boards pose a better alternative than the previous style of menu boards, enabling restaurant businesses to experience quick and easy menu change with eye-catching graphics (Orr). Restaurants have found the power of digital technology, which replaces the traditional marketing strategies.
Some of the benefits of digital marketing include the replacement of several advertisements into static advertisement campaigns, increase in sales by target advertising, the ability of individual restaurant business to control their own promotions through central computer system, increase in cost savings by reducing the costs of printing and shipping of paper marketing strategies, enhancement of store decoration with eye-catching digital graphics and fashionable flat screen panels, and reinforcement of store brand with attractive advertising messages (Orr).
Adopting a digital marketing strategy inspires customers with the ability to provide suggestions, resulting in attracting new customers to the restaurant, encouraging current customers to come back repeatedly, and increasing sales. In addition to providing a platform to present a list of menu items with their corresponding prices, digital menu boards also provide a way to connect with the customer and accomplish a powerful marketing strategy, which in turn enhances relations between the restaurant and customer, producing an enhanced dining experience of customers (Orr).
In conclusion, the three primary reasons behind the importance of learning to provide excellence customer service are: job satisfaction, decreased hassle and job stress and improved job success. Most people who provide exceptional quality of customer service need feel that they are useful and productive in order to achieve a difference and bring pride in their work. Delivering quality service will reduce a lot of job hassle and stress and help prevent unpleasant interactions with a customer.
Using superior customer service strategies forms the perceptions of supervisor, managers and potential employers who can play an important role in career growth (Bacal 2004). By strictly following the basic rules in providing and maintaining quality customer service, a restaurant business can forge a good relationship with the customers, a relationship that helps the business attain growth and prosperity.
Lastly, the skills in dealing with customer complaints, which can range from slow or rude service and wrong food/drink, must include the ability to detect warning signs in a customer to prevent the occurrence of complaints from them, avoiding being offended to the customer complaint, and getting information through questioning and listening to the customer. It is also important to learn the benefits that can be gained from customer complaints in order to address them efficiently, promptly and correctly.
The benefits may include allowing instant customer feedback, repeat business, control of food quality, initiating other types of selling, and giving the customer a sense of power. The concept of understanding the moments of truth in relation to a guest’s dining experience can be utilized as a management strategy to improve customer satisfaction by assuming any unnecessary moments of truth. List of References Bacal, Robert (2004). Perfect Phrases for Customer Service: Hundreds of Tools, Techniques, and Scripts for Handling Any Situation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies. Hansen, K. V. , Jensen, O. , & Gustafsson, I.
B. The meal experiences of a la carte restaurant customers. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism. Lockyer, Timothy (2005). The dining experience: critical areas of guest satisfaction. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from http://goliath. ecnext. com/coms2/gi_0199-4801578/The-dining-experience-critical-areas. html. Nusbaum, Eric F. Customer Service Radar. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from http://www/hsgpurchasing. com/Articles/Customer%20Service%20Radar. htm. Orr, Bruce. Improving the Customer Experience With Digital Menu Boards, Retrieved April 21, 2009, from http://www.
thefreelibrary. com/Improving+the+customer+Experience+with+Digital+Menu+Boards-a01073945491. Quinn, Lydia. Basic Restaurant Customer Service Do’s and Dont’s. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from http://ezinearticles. com/? Basic-Restaurant-Customer-Service-Dos-and-Donts&id=331487. Rich, David & Vavra, Terry. A Great Customer Experience. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from htttp://www. qsrmagazine. com/articles/outside_insights/118/five_steps-1. phtml. Tschohl, John (1997). Empowerment: the key to customer service. Nation’s Restaurant News. Retrieved April 21, 2009, from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_n31_v31/