Cooking Up Top-Line Growth

How restaurants can use front-line staff to increase customer loyalty and generate more revenue

Successful restaurant owners understand the correlation between front-line staff performance and top-line success. They know that superior service can be a differentiator that increases sales and secures repeat business. That’s why they make it a priority to ensure that all front-line staff members are equipped to anticipate, recognize and respond to each diner’s unique needs.

Strong front-line staff performance can be a winning recipe for any restaurant. According to marketing consultant and best-selling author Tom Feltenstein, brands create tangible bonds with customers when they deliver a level of service that goes beyond the expected. For a restaurant, having front-line staff performance that’s equipped to deliver above-and-beyond experiences can be a catalyst that turns diners into loyal customers who come back often and spend more.

So what does it take for a restaurant to provide the kinds of experiences that boost revenue? Here are 3 fundamental strategies that can help restaurants turn front-line staff performance into an engine for top-line growth:

Start with the right people

Employee–customer interactions play a vital role in a restaurant’s success. If these interactions go well, customers will be likely to spend more and make return visits. If these interactions don’t go well, customers will almost surely take their business elsewhere. Restaurants can build a foundation for positive customer interactions by putting the right people on the front lines. An ideal front-line staffer is someone who is personable, empathetic, focused on service and willing to learn.

Provide the right operational tools

Diners aren’t always open to sharing negative experiences with restaurant staff. Most take their dissatisfaction at home, leaving the restaurant with no chance to make improvements. However, growing numbers of diners have no qualms about sharing their displeasure on social media. One negative social media review can have a wide-reaching impact on a restaurant’s reputation and ability to generate revenue.

Post-visit surveys can’t help restaurants address diners’ real-time needs. Restaurants need tools and processes that enable front-line employees to capture and resolve customer concerns on the spot. The mobile device opens up new opportunities for improvement. By leveraging mobile customer engagement tools, restaurants can offer diners a low-risk, non-confrontational medium in which to share insights and concerns as the dining experience unfolds. At the same time, they can take advantage of a new means to alert staff about problems and help them make improvements to enhance the dining experience in real time. These improvements can preserve revenue opportunities by improving customer satisfaction, rescuing at-risk customers and pre-empting negative social media reviews.

Exceed customer expectations

Good restaurant operators know that customers expect to be well treated and feel like they’re getting value from the dining experience. The most successful among them recognize that they have to routinely exceed these expectations if they hope to stand out from the crowd and win the hearts, minds and wallets of customers.

So how do they do it?

It starts with dedication to delivering a simple and superior customer experience. This means going beyond traditional surveys and taking the time to engage diners on their terms and understand their concerns. And it means choosing the right front-line employees and giving them tools and processes that can help them address these concerns, ideally in real time. By ensuring that every front-line interaction — from the reservation call to the front-door welcome, table service and drive-through — makes a positive contribution to the customer experience, a restaurant can take a major step toward top-line growth.

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