Tag Archives: customer service

Exceeding Customers’ Expectations

With the holiday season in full-swing and lower gas prices, your restaurant may be seeing an increase in traffic. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the NRA performance index rose to 102.8 in October, an increase from September.  While gas prices may not stay low and the holiday season will be over before we know it, the increase of traffic is an opportunity to turn the customers coming through your doors into loyal ones.  The customer service you provide these new (and returning) customers will play a big factor into whether they return or not.

The Rush of New Customers

The performance index measured by The National Restaurant Association combines the current situation index (actual sales) with the expectations index (projected sales). This is a monthly survey of information tracked from operators around the world. More than half of the operators surveyed said they expect more increases in the next 6 months in sales.  Another important finding from the survey is the amount of operators reporting increases in their current situation index. Nation’s Restaurant News reported on the finding in a recent article.

“71 percent of operators said same-store sales improved in October, rising from 63 percent who said sales improved in September.”

Not only are sales increasing, but traffic is as well. Nation’s Restaurant News‘ article states that a little over half of operators surveyed said they had more customers coming through their door than the previous months. It has been suggested that this increase in sales and people choosing to eat out is due to the lower gas prices. That variable combined with the holiday season could benefit your restaurant.

Giving Customers A Reason to Come Back

Expendable income and the ease of eating out are driving traffic increases in restaurants across the country. This is an opportunity for your restaurant to take these prospects and turn them into repeat customers. Customer service and how your guests are treated is a key factor.  There are multiple ways to define good customer service and it can be different depending on the type of restaurant. There is one factor that can be agreed upon and it is providing a positive experience. The food your restaurant serves can be the best in the city, but if a customer feels they haven’t been treated with respect, they probably won’t be back.

First, it is important to have a staff meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page. It only takes one person not buying into the customer first mentality to bring your service down. While some argue the “the customer is always right”, this way of thinking can be used in a different way. During the rush, have your staff ask themselves “what I am doing to benefit the customer”? This is way to challenge them to keep the customer at the forefront in their decision making.

Next, emphasize patience with your staff. Guests are going to use their phones, they may take forever to decide what they want to eat or might complain file000393733815-300x200about their food. These are opportunities to show your customers that you care about their needs and you want to make sure they are getting fulfilled. Lastly, let your personality shine through. Having fun with the guests  will make your restaurant inviting. Show them that your restaurant is filled with good people. This will speak volumes to the new customers coming through your doors. While trends always change, the way you treat your guests should stay the same.  Exceeding the expectations of your guests can set your restaurant apart and leave a positive sentiment that will outlast the low gas prices and holiday season.

Featured photo credit: rbieber via photopin cc

Training Time

Take a Look Inside Central – Ongoing Training

If you are already a Central Restaurant Products customer, then you’ve had the chance to interact with our team of knowledgeable product consultants.

You already know that many have been working in our industry most of their careers; others have experience working and managing restaurants before their Central careers. You know that you can trust their experience when seeking advice on the right equipment or supplies that fit both your application and budget. Whether you place your order via phone, fax or online – you know that they’ll have your back.

Ongoing Training

Training-ServerProducts

Your product consultants get ‘hands-on’ with the different styles of Server Products’ beverage servers.

But, did you know that our consultants regularly attend vendor trainings held right here in our offices? Each week they learn about new products, industry trends and how to serve their customers better. In May alone, our product consultants met with Lakeside Manufacturing, Metro shelving and carts, Globe Food Equipment, Scotsman Ice, Moffat Commercial Ovens, Service Ideas and Manitowoc Ice Machines. Each brought in some of their products for hands-on learning.

It’s a quick half-hour session that allows vendor reps to teach directly to our consultants and answer their questions about ever-evolving product lines. When Service Ideas stopped by, our consultants were able to see hands-on the differences in their varied lines of beverage pitchers. They learned how each style was designed for specific applications – from self-service to elegant dining services.

Training-Globe

Globe demonstrates the features of their slicers, scales and patty presses.

When Manitowoc brought both local and company representatives to a recent training, they explained in depth how to determine the production capacities needed for a wide variety of food service customer types. Did you know that a full service restaurant should plan to use 1-1/2 lbs. of ice per person, while a hotel should budget 5 lbs. of ice per room? How about which food service segments should consider nugget and flake ice? Our product consultants have the tools to answer these questions for our customers.

Give Central a Try

It’s all part of our greater effort to maintain our high levels of customer service and ensure every one of our customers can make an informed decision when investing in new equipment for their restaurant, school, institution or catering business. It’s our commitment to supplying you with the right product, at the right price in a timely manner.

So, if you’re not already a Central customer – give us a try. We hope after this look inside our company that you will consider us for your next food service equipment or supply purchase. For more information, be sure to sign up for our emails, request a catalog be mailed to you, or call 800-215-9293 to speak to a product consultant today. Hablo Español? We have product consultants who can help you too.

Image from MorgueFile

Daily Deals: 3 Tips for Your Restaurant’s Experience

Image from MorgueFileIf you have the internet, watch TV, go to restaurants or have simply just been living and breathing for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of and maybe even used a daily deal site.  The concept is usually as follows: A daily deal company pitches the idea of their company to a restaurant, the restaurant agrees, the company sells certificates for the restaurant to customers for half the price (Ex: a $50 certificate is sold for $25) and once the certificates are sold a percentage goes back to the restaurant and the rest is profit for the daily deal company.

This method has proven quite successful for companies like Groupon and Living Social , both estimated to be worth somewhere in the billions.  However, that also means there are clones of these daily deal companies popping up every day (with businesses like Google and Facebook being two of the bigger ones).

While it may seem like all of these companies would overload the market, there is still a need/want for more and more.  After all, consumers are always looking for a deal and restaurant owners are never ones to turn away business, especially in a down economy.

However, while the discount sites may seem like a win-win on the surface, this may not be the whole story.  The tips below cover just a few of the often overlooked specifics that could help protect restaurants from coming up with a losing score in the daily deal game.

1)  Be a Part of Creating the Fine Print

Businesses are often quick to jump at a chance to get people in the door with free advertising, the hope that customers will spend past the coupon amount and the promise of a nice percentage check from the sale of said coupons.  But to really make it work it is imperative that business owners are able to set restrictions on coupon use (i.e. if you’re busiest on the weekends make sure deals can only be used Monday through Friday).  At the same time, going too far overboard with restrictions can turn a customer away from the purchase (i.e. Offer is only good for a specified meal choice).   If setting these restrictions isn’t possible, restaurants could run the risk of upsetting customers due to long waits and overworking their staff on already busy evenings.

2)    Have Realistic Expectations  

Probably the most key element to signing up for a deal program is knowing exactly how much you’ll be receiving back once the coupons are sold and if it will be enough to help instead of hinder your business.

Hamilton Nolan of Gawker.com reminds, “Groupon often takes half of the money of a coupon offering for itself, and, with a 50% discount, leaves the business selling its goods for 25 cents on the dollar.”    And while even getting that small amount back may sound tempting, once normal costs like labor, food, etc. are calculated in you may realize that the return on investment is even smaller or worse, non-existent.

While considering the financial side, it’s also a good idea to think about how these deals could bring down morale as well.  In article in The Boston Globe, Joanne Chang, operator of Myers + Change in Boston warned, “Every restaurant tries to charge a price they think is fair based on what they put into it. Then to just give it away, it makes me sad. I don’t like feeling what we do is devalued.’’

3)    Coupons Don’t Create Loyal Customers

Even though daily deal programs get the word out about your business and may even increase traffic during otherwise slow times, doesn’t mean that’s where the selling to customers stops.  As noted on smartmoney.com, “They (daily deals) also introduce consumers to experiences they might not otherwise consider if they weren’t deeply discounted.”  Following this philosophy, many patrons will more than likely be stopping by for the first time which means that the deal site has accomplished their task, but now it’s up to your restaurant to provide excellent food and service in order to make the customer realize that even if no coupon was involved, your business is worth paying full price for in the future or even recommending to a friend.

While there are seemingly endless tips, tricks and words of advice available, ultimately deciding whether a daily deal site could help your business is dependent on you and your establishment.  However, sitting down and taking these tips, the advice of other businesses and the deal site sales pitch into consideration could help you make the decision to be the next big deal which, if executed correctly, could also make you the next hot restaurant.

Has your business participated in daily deals?  Ever purchased one for yourself?  We’d love to know how it worked!  Please share your tips and advice in the comments.

Trend alert: restaurants strive to remain relevant amid the recession

I’d like to share a few articles I read this week that address the changing climate of the restaurant industry and changes in the demographics and habits of diners. Each of these pieces touched on a common theme – that restaurants are going to have work harder to be relevant among a changing -and less loyal- demographic; one that is causing the market to become more competitive and more driven than ever by exceptional customer service.

First, a report released this week from the NPD Group ReCount showed the “total number of restaurant locations in the U.S. shrunk during the past year as smaller chains and independents in particular had difficulty weather the economic storm.”

And, coincidentally, a report from Technomic showed that consumers are entertaining at home more often than a year ago. That trend is expected to increase throughout the year.

The Technomic study is a good segue into a Wall Street Journal article that identifies a trend of restaurants opening fewer locations and instead trying harder to improve service. Mystery shopper programs and online surveys abound.

And the last article, from the Orlando Sentinel, shows how dining habits have changed. Older consumers, who represent a large portion of the casual-dining market, have reined in spending as their retirement savings have taken a hit during the recession. Meanwhile, the next generation of diners is less loyal to casual dining and often feel that traditional sit-down restaurants take too long. Moreover, grocery store chains are honing in on restaurants’ territory by offering more pre-packaged and ready-to-eat meals.

It’s easy to see the downside, but what opportunities do these trends present for restaurateurs?

First, as noted in the MediaPost article, it offers an opportunity for restaurants -especially the independent and smaller chains that are struggling the most- to place a greater emphasis on offering box lunches and party platters, complete with off-site preparation.

Second, these trends should tell restaurateurs that there are too many establishments that are almost exactly the same. Operators should be in a mode of constantly improving and reinventing themselves and keeping the concept fresh.

And last, restaurants should place an even greater emphasis on customer service that is second-to-none. I don’t just mean greeting the diners with a “Hi, my name is Kristy and I’ll be your server,” with a side-order of deadpan stare.

What I mean is to provide a customer experience that isn’t artificial and suffocating, but unique and special enough that people will tell their friends about it.

Now more than ever, your success depends on a unique and memorable experience, and depends on taking advantage of new trends and dining styles. Because in THIS economy, if you build it, sometimes they still won’t come.