5 Ways to Create a Positive Dining Experience for Your Customers

Customer satisfaction is crucial. Here are 5 ways to keep your customers satisfied with their dining experience.

Providing patrons with a stellar dining experience is what truly sets great restaurants apart. In the competitive food and hospitality industry, any opportunity to offer a distinctive and memorable meal will help you stand out and succeed. From fine dining to themed restaurants with a special niche, it’s ultimately the customer’s experience and satisfaction that matter most.

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Many factors go into creating a positive dining experience for your customers; great food, great service, and a welcoming atmosphere are a few factors

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The dining experience begins as soon as your customers walk in the door. Every single aspect of your establishment from the way guests are greeted to the type of music playing, influences and shapes their impression. Much like everything else in life, you only get one chance for a first impression so make it FANTASTIC!

To give your patrons the best dining experience possible it’s important to embrace your identity and brand.  Are you running a retro, fifties-themed diner? Then go all out and channel your inner Grease-fan with the server’s uniforms and atomic décor. Are you running a high-end establishment geared toward an affluent demographic? Exude luxury with beautifully designed menus, fine glass and tableware, and soft, elegant lighting.

It’s tempting to fall back on your favorite dishes or the one-of-a-kind specials you offer every Friday and rely on the menu to drive customer satisfaction. While food is, of course, the number one focus of your establishment, you can’t rely on your chef alone to shoulder the responsibility. Customers expect a full experience when they walk in the door. Be sure you’re meeting those expectations.

5 Ways to Create an Amazing Dining Experience

1. Provide Outstanding Customer Service

The waitstaff directly interacts with your customers and they’re a reflection of your ownership and management style. Set clear expectations up front, and ensure servers, hosts, and even kitchen staff understand the role they play in the customer dining experience.

There are several specific restaurant areas where the bar for phenomenal customer service is established. First off, greet ALL customers with a smile. A friendly host to welcome and seat patrons the moment they enter is a must. A guest’s first interaction with your restaurant should always be a happy and friendly one.

Another way to foster a positive dining experience is to train knowledgeable, patient servers. On a customer’s first visit they’re unfamiliar with your menu and may ask questions. Servers should know every dish on the menu to answer questions about ingredients used, dietary accommodations, and substitutions. They should also be prepared with a recommendation or two. The best waitstaff anticipates customers’ needs, filling water glasses, offering other drink refills, clearing plates in a timely manner, and checking in periodically. It sounds obvious, but customer service can often make or break a diner’s experience.

2. Create an Inviting Atmosphere and Décor

A clean, welcoming, and inviting environment is crucial to a successful dining experience. Ensure all décor from furniture to art to table linens reflect your restaurant’s personality. The family-friendly dining experience at a Texas steakhouse differs greatly from a romantic date night destination.

According to Elite Traveler, artwork, lighting, music, and even the spacing of tables all work together to produce your restaurant’s unique atmosphere. It’s your job to successfully “set the stage” for your customers and give them a positive dining experience. Patrons may visit your establishment for the delicious food but always remember, they’re also seeking the ambiance. Above all, every restaurant should be clean, which goes without saying, but your restaurant should also be inviting.

If you’re running a holistic or clean eating restaurant, consider incorporating green elements and minimalistic décor to mimic the aesthetic of you menu. Offer extra seating for customers upstairs near the rooftop garden where your food is grown. Establish an atmosphere that compliments your menu and creates a special, memorable event, rather than just another meal.

3. Host Special Events and Live Entertainment  

Every diner loves their own “place” where they feel at home. While you may not memorize the name and face of everyone who walks in the door, you can offer them fun opportunities for guests to feel like “regulars” at your restaurant. Hosting special events like live music, special pop-up dining experiences, and beer and wine tastings are effective ways to provide a unique dining experience and set your establishment apart!

Booking live entertainment at your restaurant is an extra expense, but the traffic you attract often offsets costs. It may even result in a nice profit and boost food and drink sales. If you have the room for a stage or even a small performance area, entertainment is a great draw. It’s important to ensure any type of act or performance you hire fits well within your restaurant’s category. A moving mariachi band might be an odd fit at an Italian style restaurant but hosting football Sunday specials at a tavern? Well, that’s a perfect match!

Hosting special events is a great draw, provided you have space. Before officially booking a live music, performance or hiring a cool act, prepare all your staff for the occasion and work out traffic flow, so your restaurant is operated efficiently. Your event should enhance, not negatively impact customers’ dining experience.  Keep in mind, there are special licenses, crowd limits, and permits required to host some live events. You may also need audio equipment and speakers, so always do a test run before dinner (and show) time.

4. Offer Menu Options for Everyone

These days it seems everyone is looking for vegan, gluten-friendly, paleo-friendly, or other dietary accommodations. While you can’t always provide a full menu of dishes to please everyone, it’s a good rule of thumb to offer at least a few menu options catered to special diets.

As a restaurant owner, you never want to turn a customer away hungry because the menu didn’t offer any dishes to fit their needs. A positive dining experience is really only possible when customers actually DINE with you! Add a special gluten-free beer to your menu, offer a few kid-sized smaller portions, or include a few delicious meatless meals. A little taste for everyone goes a long way toward helping all diners feel welcome.

If it fits with your menu, you may even wish to offer various nut-free, dairy-free and maybe even vegan or vegetarian options. Educate your waitstaff on common food allergies so their properly equipped to answer any questions. Encourage your kitchen to accommodate substitutions whenever possible to please a customer. A patron’s dining experience will be AMAZING once they feel their needs are considered.

5. Always Come Back to GOOD FOOD

At the end of the day, there are many components contributing to a positive dining experience, but of course, the biggest factor is GOOD FOOD! Without delicious and tasty food, customers won’t return. In this competitive industry, it’s important to offer fresh ingredients, variety, and delicious food.

If you’re making changes to your menu, invest in a highly skilled and trained head chef to lead the process. Restaurant owners often focus on cost, but skilled chefs know how to prepare ordinary ingredients so they’re extraordinary. Consistency is also key when it comes to good food at your establishment. If you employ more than one head chef or sous-chef, be sure they cross-train together. This ensures consistency and quality across your menu, no matter the night

Include locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Not only will you keep your food costs down, but you’ll add local clout to your reputation.  Offer weekly specials or a “catch of the day” to spice up the menu and draw customers in. Additionally, it’s also important to invest in quality ingredients. Top-notch herbs and produce taste amazing and make a big impact!

Running a successful restaurant is all about perfecting the dining experience for customers. From the ambiance to special events and of course, the food, many factors shape the way a patron defines his or her dining experience with you. Whether you’re already running a restaurant, updating your menu, or just considering opening a food business, remember it’s all about customers’ dining experience.

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