Restaurants come in various formats, and each one works on a different business model. When it comes to greasy and delicious meals, it’s all about speed and convenience. Therefore, excellent customer service in fast-food restaurants matters.
The variety in burgers and pizzas has its limits, and the competition in the fast-food restaurant industry is high.
Therefore, you want to focus on honing the overall experience your customers have when they visit your restaurant. This is how you will set yourself apart from your competitors. Plus, encouraging customers to keep returning is better than hunting for new ones. This article shares seven effective tips to help you achieve success.
The Ins and Outs of Customer Service in Fast Food Restaurants
Many restaurant owners mistakenly think just because they provide good food and quick service, they have it all figured out. However, QSR’s marketing strategies prove that people look for more than quick service. Customer service in fast food has many elements:
- Communication: Good communication serves as the cornerstone of excellent customer service. For example, if your employees don’t understand your customers’ requests, they won’t be able to serve them the right way. They might confuse the order and end up driving the customer away.
- Waiting time: Wait times are a big deal in the restaurant industry, even more so in fast food settings. It takes time to prepare good food, and striking a balance isn’t always easy. But if your customers have to wait for a long time before their food arrives, it will frustrate them. And a frustrated customer isn’t likely to endorse you for exceptional service.
- Cleanliness: While fast food isn’t the choice best for your health, nobody should eat in an unhygienic setting. It will affect customer experience if your venue has things like visible dirt, greasy tables, foul smells, etc. And since experience is a part of service, it will do you more harm than good.
- Order accuracy: With similar types of fast food, it’s easier to mess up customers’ orders in this restaurant format. Suppose you have two burgers that have the same ingredients, except one has cheese while the other doesn’t. If a customer orders the latter and you bring the former, it will cause a hiccup in your service quality.
- Technology: Your customers are probably walking with the world as it advances into the depth of technology. They now want things like touchless menus, QR codes, online payment, etc. If you can’t keep up with them, you won’t be able to provide the service they want.
How To Improve Customer Service in Fast Food Restaurants?
While convenience and ease have made online delivery quite popular, people still enjoy eating fast food in restaurants. In fact, 44% of people have voted this as the number one reason to dine in.
This wouldn’t have been the case if restaurants didn’t pay attention to excellent customer service.
After all, nobody likes to eat in places where the staff is rude or the food is cold. If other restaurants are actively participating in this, why should you stay behind? So, here’s how to improve customer service in fast-food restaurants.
Greet Your Customers the Right Way
The restaurant customer experience starts as soon as they enter your restaurant and ends when they leave. Everything that happens during their visit is a part of that experience. If anything is lacking during these instances, it will ruin the whole experience, and the customer might leave angry.
So, make them feel welcome when they step through your restaurant’s door. A simple smile or greeting goes a long way in making the customers feel like you actually care.
You might have a guard standing at the door. Train them to politely open the door for your guests and say “hello.”
Have a general manager standing behind a podium near the entrance. As soon as the customers step inside, they should also greet them.
Next, train them to ask the number of people who will be dining with you that day. Make them take the customers to an appropriate table with the required number of seats. In case such a table isn’t vacant at the moment, politely inform them how long they have to wait.
You can also direct them to entertainment areas if you have some in your restaurant.
Once the table is ready, address them using “sir” or “ma’am” in a polite tone and direct them towards it.
From there, the server should take over the group and greet them politely with a smile. This way, you won’t risk making customers feel lost in your venue.
Plus, their experience will start with a bang, and they’ll feel comfortable approaching your staff if they need anything. After all, nobody wants to deal with rude restaurant staff with attitude issues.
As a restaurant owner, you won’t be directly meeting your customers, at least not all the time. Your staff and waitpersons will be the ones to receive and serve them. Therefore, giving them proper training can be the golden ticket to exceptional customer service.
Even among your staff, guests will be interacting with waitpeople the most. Whether they want to order something, get the check, or need an extra chair, they’ll call your waiter. So, train them with extreme care.
Firstly, they should know the names of the dishes on your menu. From starters to drinks and desserts, everything should be at their fingertips.
However, keep the menu design simple and easy to understand. Group the similar things together and give a detailed description of what goes into each dish. This will not only help the servers memorize it, but customers will also be able to navigate it with ease.
Secondly, new customers and regular ones who want to try new things like to ask waitpersons for recommendations.
For that, they should first ask the customer’s preferences. For example, a customer asks which burgers are the best. The waiter’s first question should be about the type of meat they want. Next, ask them the type of sauce they would like.
Based on their preferred tastes, the waiter can give one or two options without making the choice too complicated.
But how will they be able to do it if they don’t know the highlights of each dish? Then, there are daily specials that keep changing.
The point is that your waiters should be actively learning about your dishes and any changes that the chefs make.
Remember, people like to eat at restaurants where the staff are friendly professionals who make good recommendations (and eye contact!).
Be Attentive and Take Prompt Action
Being attentive and taking the correct action at the right time is necessary for every business, not just restaurants. If you want satisfied customers, don’t make them wait for your attention.
Once they’ve served the order, train your staff to keep checking back with the customers. Ask if they need anything else. Who knows? A little nudge might encourage them to order more than they had initially planned.
Moreover, tell your employees to keep roaming around tables and counters to see if anyone needs anything.
For example, a group of friends calls for service in the middle of their meal. In such situations, some waiters avoid responding to tables they didn’t take an order from.
Those waiters should take the order and help anywhere else they can as the waiter in charge may be busy elsewhere. Also, it isn’t wise to let the customer wait.
Therefore, it is crucial to train your staff to be attentive and helpful at all times.
Being attentive to customers’ needs includes giving them updates on their orders frequently (but not often enough to be invasive). For example, a customer orders three smash burgers, but it takes longer than usual for the chefs to prepare them.
Train your wait staff to know to communicate this and apologize to the waiting guest. Even if the customer isn’t angry or hasn’t asked, this action will build trust and make them feel at ease.
Create an Unforgettable Atmosphere
As mentioned earlier, people enjoy eating out in fast-food restaurants. Inevitably, those restaurants keep up a pleasant ambiance. You should take a page out of their books if you want to improve your customer service.
The first thing that goes into an agreeable ambiance is cleanliness. A dirty venue will not only disgust your customers but also get you in trouble with the health authorities.
Since this discussion is about fast food restaurants, you won’t have a lot of crockery to deal with. You’ll probably be serving the meal in paper wrappers and trays.
So, tables might be a bit easier to clear as compared to other restaurant formats such as fine dining.
However, fast food is greasy, and there’s a higher chance of finding a mess on the tables.
After disposing of the wrappers and returning the trays to the kitchen, wipe the tables with a cleaner and cloth. Moreover, sweep the floor so the next group doesn’t find any crumbs.
Decor will also play a part in your restaurant’s theme. Keep consistent branding with the same colors across the whole venue.
But choose these colors wisely since some can induce hunger while others can take away people’s appetites. Moreover, display your logo in appropriate places to create a sense of familiarity and brand awareness.
And since you own a fast-food restaurant, the setting will be a bit casual. So, let your creativity loose and come up with themes that people will enjoy.
For example, use a cowboy theme, vintage decoration, sports bar setup, and seasonal holiday themes. You can also provide some entertainment options like live music and photo booths, etc.
Ask for Feedback and Act on It
When you audit your business to catch areas of improvement, you might miss some. It’s easy to overlook things when you have an attachment to them.
Since we’re talking about giving exceptional service to customers, why not ask them what you can do to improve it? They don’t have an emotional attachment to your restaurant, so they’ll be the best judges. Here’s how.
When customers finish their food and call you for the bill, ask them whether they liked the food. You’ll get a lot of clarity then and there.
But as you probably already know, it isn’t just about the food. You’ll have a lot of other areas where you’ll want their feedback.
However, customers might not be willing to give these answers verbally. So, one option is to create a small survey. Create four columns, with the first being the area in question and the second, third, and fourth for customer reactions. Then just leave it on the table and don’t force them to fill it out.
Additionally, if you use marketing campaigns such as email or SMS, make the survey digital and send it to your customers.
Social media is another powerful platform to learn what customers are saying about your restaurant. They’ll share their reviews publicly, which can also serve as free promotion for you, provided there’s more positive than negative.
Search through these reviews and pinpoint areas of improvement. Once you have enough insights, act on them.
For example, you might find that customers think your restaurant is too expensive. For that, you can try controlling your food costs by buying raw materials from local providers.
Launch a Loyalty Program for Repeat Customers
While restaurant loyalty programs might seem unrelated to customer service, they have quite a deep connection to it. They make customers feel special as if they’re a part of your brand. That works toward the bigger goal of customer satisfaction. Here are the different types of loyalty programs.
- Based on points: Each time a customer spends in your restaurant, you give them a certain number of points. Customers can then redeem their rewards when they reach the threshold you set. For example, give customers a free dessert after they’ve collected 50 points.
- Based on items: Instead of points, you keep track of items that customers purchase. When they’ve purchased an item a certain number of times, you can reward them. For example, give the sixth burger free after a customer has purchased the first five in the same month.
- Subscription rewards: Let customers subscribe to a food service and reward them after some time. For example, launch a program where customers subscribed to your monthly meal kit get a free one after four months.
- Referral program: This one is the best way to turn customers into loyal brand advocates. Here, you reward customers for bringing friends and family to your restaurant.
- Online rewards: While it’s better to encourage customers to dine in, offering online rewards can also work in your favor. All you have to do is swap the customers in the above examples with online ones.
Additionally, you can give surprise discounts with expiration dates. These create a fear of missing out and encourage customers to take immediate action.
Incorporate Technology Wherever You Can
The last tip to enhance customer service is to use technology wherever you can. For one, you won’t be able to keep up with customer demands without it. Plus, people hesitate to visit a restaurant that seems outdated.
So firstly, you must have a POS system in your restaurant. As mentioned earlier, there’s a higher chance of messing up orders in fast food restaurants.
A POS system paves the way for accurate orders that increase efficiency. This, in return, improves customer service since people don’t have to deal with wrong orders.
Secondly, cash shouldn’t be the only format of payment you accept at your restaurant. People now expect to be able to pay online or through cards.
If you don’t have this facility at your restaurant, they might end up frustrated. Therefore, have contactless payment options at your restaurant.
Thirdly, some customers might not want any physical contact even though they enjoy your restaurant’s ambiance. For such customers, incorporate self-order kiosks so they don’t have to wait for your staff to take orders.
Lastly, having QR code menus and surveys will also work in your favor. That’s because more and more people want to go contactless after the pandemic.
Turn Negative Experiences Into Positive Ones With Exceptional Customer Service
You can’t always keep the perfect relationship with your customers, and occasional hiccups are quite common in any business.
But giving exceptional customer service in fast food restaurants can help you prevent negative experiences.
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