How Staff Make or Break the Customer Experience

What makes a great dining experience? Is it the quality of the food, the cleanliness of the restrooms? Of course these are all important factors. So is convenient parking for that matter.

For me when it comes to determining whether or not it was an enjoyable time I mainly measure one thing – the staff. And it all starts with the host/hostess.

I get it. Your restaurant is popular – that’s why there’s a wait to get in. Be smart. Manage my expectations with realistic wait times. If you see my family is in tow, think about asking if we’ll be needing anything special like a high chair or booster seat. And when you say we’re next in line we had better be the next party seated.

If I’m there waiting with my wife and two kids ages three and seven, it’s likely we don’t want to be seated at a hightop table next to the bar. Somewhere away from the hipsters, please. Perhaps a booth in the corner.

Once seated break out the crayons and kiddie menus. After waiting 45 minutes my kids are likely climbing the walls. They need stimulation, something to occupy their time while we wait to place our order. Plus, mommy and daddy could use a minute.

“Hi, I’m Susy. What can I get you to drink?” Along with that you may want to ask if the kids need a little something to tie them over before the meals arrive. Otherwise they’re likely to venture into the kitchen foraging for food. Trust me, you don’t want my three year old dumping the salt shaker all over the table. And you probably don’t want her ripping up all those pink packets of Sweet & Low. Yes, some bread would be great.

The mark of a great waiter/waitress is how attentive they are to my needs. The best of the best somehow know what I need before I even know I need it. Glasses are filled without asking. Plates come and go at optimal times. Flatware, napkins and sauces show up just before they’re needed. All this happens without being asked “how is everything?” How many times have you been asked that when your mouth is full?

And now for the business application…your customers are rating your company not just on how well your product/service performs, but on the quality of every interaction between your employees and customers. This greatly factors into the overall experience.

For me, the difference between a magical evening out, and a mediocre meal always comes down to service. Those who consistently deliver will always get my business, and a 20% tip.