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 restaurant dining experience.

Providing patrons with an amazing dining experience 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 dining experience and satisfaction that matter most.

A man and woman sit outdoors, eating food and drinks at a wood table and talking.
Photo by Rawpixel

The restaurant dining experience begins as soon as your customers walk in the door. From the way guests are greeted to the type of music playing, every aspect of your establishment 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 most amazing dining experiences 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 the number one focus of your establishment, you can’t rely on your chef alone to shoulder the responsibility. Customers expect a complete 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 their role in the customer’s 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 when they enter is a must. A guest’s first interaction with your restaurant should always be happy and friendly.

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 promptly, 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 warm and inviting café restaurant space, with wood tables, comfortable chairs, and a counter for ordering food - all aspects of a positive dining experience for customers.
Photo by Petr Sevcovic

A clean, welcoming and inviting environment is crucial to a positive 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 your 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, memorable 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. Entertainment is a great draw if you have the room for a stage or even a small performance area. It’s important to ensure any type of act or performance you hire fits well within your restaurant’s ambiance. For example, a strolling mariachi band might be an odd fit at an Italian 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 can operate efficiently. Events should enhance, not negatively impact customers’ dining experience. Keep in mind; there are rules. Special licenses, crowd limits, and permits may be 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

Two restaurant menus sit side by side on clip boards. These breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are simple, stylish menus for a positive and easy ordering experience for your patrons.
Photo by Catherine Heath

These days it seems every diner is on a specific diet—vegan, gluten-free, paleo, keto, or other special dietary accommodations. So, 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 impossible if no selections on the menu fit a guest’s dietary restrictions! Include gluten-free choices (even beer!) to your menu, offer smaller portions for smaller appetites and kids, and have a few outstanding vegan meals. Offering something for everyone helps bring in large groups and repeat business.

Consider offering different menus with various nut-free, dairy-free, and vegan or vegetarian options if it fits your concept. Make sure your waitstaff can answer questions about food preparation with respect to common food allergies, and encourage your kitchen staff to accommodate substitutions whenever possible. 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 most significant 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 changing 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 critical. When it comes to good food, you need to deliver the same experience every time, no matter who is working the line. If you have different head chefs or sous-chefs at different times, make sure they train together to ensure the same taste, quality, and presentation on every plate.

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 in customers. Additionally, it’s also essential to invest in quality ingredients. Farm-fresh produce and herbs make a huge taste difference!

For any successful restaurant, customer experience is key. From the ambiance to special events and, of course, the food, many factors shape how a patron defines their 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.

Featured image by rawpixel. All images licensed for use via Unsplash.

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