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10 Ways to Stay Ahead of Your Restaurant Competition - Part 2

Copyright (c) 2006-2023

Every restaurant owner should constantly be taking an objective look at how well your restaurant is doing. Staying ahead of the competition will keep you on your toes. Here in part 2 of this article, we look at more ways you can get a good report card.

6. Be aware of your customer's preferences and usual favourites.

Customers love to feel special. Most diners go to a restaurant for an experience, not just a meal. You know how it is if you go somewhere regularly and they can never remember you, or they do, but they can't remember your name. How special do you feel then? If a customer orders the same drink all the time, not only do they think it is nice if you remember, they will soon start to wonder why you can't if you don't. Customers always are impressed when a server remembers their preferences or favourites from visit to visit.

7. Don't get too chatty with guests

It's great to have a chat with customers, and it should be encouraged, but it should not be overdone. A server may even spend extra time with a customer before the food arrives, however they should be basically left alone after that, other than checking for additional needs.

8. Think of customers as family and close friends

Think of your family members and your friends for a moment. You know that Harry likes seafood but does not like oysters. Warren only drinks single malt scotch and Jenny loves Chardonnay. Bob likes ice cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and hates garlic. Get to know your customers the same way and it will pay off.

9. Keep record cards

I like to keep small record cards about customer's details and preferences. They record information about a customer's likes and dislikes. It has birthdays, anniversary dates and any other information that is deemed important to help make them feel special. Reward your servers every time they add something to a card. Don't get too nosy, but generally people love to share information with people they trust.

10. Treat complaints as an opportunity to fix something and develop a closer relationship happens! It does not matter how efficient you are, you will always have to deal with complaints.

Bill Gates has always said that one of Microsoft's greatest sources for learning is from complaints. He sees them as an opportunity and turns them into a positive. Similarly, in a restaurant, if you handle the situation well you can have those same customers as your "Raving Fans". Here are some tips on how to do it:

Deal with complaints promptly. This shows that you are serious about what they have to say and are responsible as a business owner. It does not matter how the complaint is made, in writing, by telephone, email or in person, do not delay. The longer you wait the angrier the person is going to become, and an angry customer is a talkative one.

Provide refunds before guests request them. If a customer complains about a meal or any part of it, do not wait for them to request a credit, offer it to them first, or offer to make an immediate substitution. When you take this initiative you are showing them that you value their satisfaction more than anything. If they share the story with friends, you can only come out of it in a favourable light.

Always look at the big picture. Don't get lost in the small stuff!! You are trying to build a business and become more successful. So when customers complain about their meal, or the service or anything at all, always try to resolve the complaints in their favour, in whatever way you think is appropriate. Customers always retain favourable memories of restaurants that are quick and efficient at resolving their complaints.

Just a note to remember though! I do not agree with the adage that "The customer is always right". If they are valued regular, or someone you know and like, then it does apply. However there are always some people that try and take advantage of a situation, if they know they can constantly get away with it. You will know who they are if that is happening. In this instance I start to suggest that I am very sad that we do not seem to be able to satisfy them with regular occurrence, and that it might just be that our establishment is not appropriate for their requirements. I would discontinue being as generous as to offer credits or replacements. I am basically asking them to go away and eat elsewhere. It happens and if handled correctly and professionally, it does not become a problem, (for you at least). Anyone they talk to will probably know what they are like and have heard the story from them time and time again.

11. Offer discounts

BUT USE THEM SPARINGLY!! This is very important. I am not in favour of discounts generally, and I usually get into lots of strife from our marketing consultant at the first suggestion of it. Overuse of discounts can easily weaken your pricing structure. However in some circumstances when used cleverly, discounts can boost sales and help you build your business. But when used as a sole source of marketing, it can have a negative affect on your restaurant. However some of the following may be a possibility for you at the appropriate time:

Give discounts to individual groups. This is a good way to entice aspecific audience to your restaurant. You could use it as a goodwill gesture too by giving offers to Rotary Clubs and similar organisations. Other groups could be teachers, students, senior citizens etc. It all depends what type of restaurant you are and what demographic you are serving. You can limit it to certain days or times.

Create coupons. This may be more appropriate for fast food restaurants, but they can also be very effective in fine dining establishments too. Coupons are primarily designed to introduce new customers to your establishment. Giving one meal free or cheaper when another meal is purchased is always very popular. Free coffees or free deserts or appetisers can also be effective. You can also give coupons for future visits, when presenting the bill.

Offer discounts at special times. This helps get the quieter times a bit busier. You may as well be selling some things and building you business during these times too, even if it is to a lesser extent.

Surprise envelope discounts. This can be a bit of fun. Present a sealed envelope at the same time you present the bill. Your customers will be surprised at either a discount on their next visit, some lottery tickets, free deserts or coffees, or any other offer you think appropriate. These are fun for all involved, unexpected and easy to prepare.

Accept competitor's coupons. This is easy, saves on printing, and gains attention. You can steal customers away from them too. It is worthwhile to investigate which coupons are generally the more productive first.

Give away free drinks at surprise times. At quieter times get things moving by announcing free or discounted drinks as a surprise. Don't do it every day and choose different times too of course.

Form a strategic alliance with a local cinema, or some other entertainment venue. Dining out and going to then show or a movie is a good mix. So why not partner with your local cinema, or other entertainment venue. They can just show their ticket. Maybe they will offer a discount to your customers too. Their movie listings could be available in the bar or on request.

So look at your program of staying ahead of the competition and look at other ways to stay a step ahead.

We looked at other ways to stay ahead of the competition in part 1 of this article which you can access at:

About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
Ian Macdonald as founder and owner of Macdonald's Gourmet Burgers combines his passion and knowledge of food, wine and nutrition with savvy business tactics. He is also the MD of a corporate consulting firm that advises on strategic negotiation, dispute resolution and workplace change. Clients are mainly from top 100 corporations. For lots of free resources from their extensive website go to:

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