Running a restaurant is no easy task. There are a lot of moving parts that have to be working correctly and in sync to ensure the success of your restaurant. Audits in the food and beverage industry often show a lot of issues many managers aren’t usually aware of. We already talked about the factors that will increase your restaurant’s chances of success. For instance, quality food and compliance with Saudi traditions or culture were just a few examples. Another habit successful managers practice is cost control; identifying and reducing business expenses as a means of increasing their profits. It’s all about finding ways to optimise restaurant operations to ensure you get the highest profits possible.
As you can see, that’s a lot of moving parts that you have to keep an eye on. Many restaurant managers not only in the UAE but also across GCC are aware of and are actively implementing these ideas in their establishments. We won’t talk about that today, though. This time, we’ll talk about the seemingly small restaurant mistakes that are often overlooked by restaurant managers and eventually discovered during restaurant audits.
So, what is a restaurant audit?
The word ‘audit’ conjures up images of ruthless tax professionals going through your financial records with impunity, but don’t fret, that’s not the kind of audit we’re talking about. In this case, an audit entails a point by point inspection of your restaurant’s operations. It involves analysing the checkpoints that cover all the significant facets of a restaurant’s operation and determine its success in the industry. This restaurant audit checklist may include operations, staffing, design, menus (the design, engineering, profitability, etc.) marketing, available facilities, and sales performance. These audits are used to determine whether the restaurant is under-performing or over-performing according to industry standards. If you’re under-performing, you will get a comprehensive analysis of all your weaknesses and how to turn them into strengths. If you’re over-performing, it’s an incentive to work even harder for higher profits.
Customer Service Mistakes
There are a few small mistakes that may slip past managers and hurt the restaurants’ operations. Let’s first discuss some errors in customer service.
No proper greeting or farewell
For most customers, the experience starts as soon as they walk into your restaurant. The difference between being met with an open and friendly ‘Good Evening, welcome to our establishment’ right at the door and not being greeted is enormous. Referred to as hosts or hostesses, these are staff whose purpose is to greet the customers and make them feel welcome right at the door. First impressions are crucial since customers can just turn and leave if they aren’t well-received. Studies have shown that 38% of the first impression is determined by tone, so make sure that your host’s physical presence is also as welcoming as their greetings. Proper posture, warm smiles, and personal greetings will make your guests feel welcome. If the host displays any sort of hostile behaviour or acts like he’s being inconvenienced, you need to fix that. It’s also important to say a proper goodbye, thank the customer for coming and welcome them back again. You want customers to feel welcome and wanted right off the bat, so make sure you give them a fantastic first impression.
Over-friendliness or a lack of respect for the customers
Yes, you read that right, over-friendliness. This has become common in the service industry, and it can be traced back to American chains such as Starbucks. While friendliness is a good thing for staff in the hospitality industry to embody, it has its limits. Like they say, too much of anything is bad. The thing with being too friendly is that it puts pressure on the customers to match that level of friendliness. They just came to enjoy a meal, and no one likes to put up with a chatty server. It is a business transaction, after all. How your servers address customers is also an issue. They must maintain a respectful tone always. Rudeness can be extremely off-putting, and you are liable to lose customers if they aren’t addressed and treated with respect by your staff.
Gossiping or attending to personal calls during service
There is nothing as rude and off-putting as a server who is constantly on the phone, instead of seeing to the customers’ needs. A customer should not have to make an effort to get the server’s attention. It screams to the customer that they aren’t important and that they aren’t a priority to the restaurant. Chances are, that customer isn’t coming back tomorrow. Gossiping among the staff is even worse. Customers pay to enjoy their food in a chill, relaxed atmosphere. If your staff gossips loudly next to the customers, they ruin this experience. They are the face of your restaurant, after all, being the only staff customers interact with. Gossip is unseemly, and customers are unlikely to return if they are subjected to it each time they eat. When crafting restaurant rules for waiters, make sure gossiping and personal calls during work hours are strictly forbidden.
Strong perfumes or poor hygiene
The only scents in your restaurant should be of the varieties of food you serve. Nothing else. Taste and smell are intertwined, and smell contributes significantly to the experience the customers pay for. Having a waiter who bathed in perfume is annoying, off-putting, and ultimately alters and spoils the experience. Don’t forget that at least 30% of the general population is allergic to perfumes, and they will react adversely to strong perfumes. The importance of hygiene among the servers cannot be understated too. No one wants a funky smelling server anywhere near their food. It’s very unprofessional, and it brings the hygiene of your entire restaurant into question.
Unprepared and ignorant staff
Most of the time, customers walk into a restaurant with no idea of what they will eat. While the menu does act as a valuable resource for choosing options, suggestive selling should not be overlooked. Servers have to be intimately familiar with the menu and all the food served at the establishment. At least 70% of the customers only have a rough idea of what to have, and it’s the server’s job to help them narrow that down to a specific dish. Not only will that give the customer an appreciation of the server’s taste and level of knowledge, but the server could even steer them towards the pricier dishes on the menu.
Removing diners’ drinks before they are done
This may seem a little nit-picky, but it’s an essential aspect of the entire service offered to customers. When a server takes away the customer’s drinks, it shows that they aren’t attuned to their needs and more than that, it’s rude. It shows disregard and is a clear indication that the server isn’t paying attention to the customers.
Lack of eye contact or too much eye contact
As an industry that prizes the experience more than the products and services it offers, personal connection plays a big part in ensuring success. Eye contact matters, from the host at the door to the server who eventually brings your food. Eye contact shows the customer that they have the server’s full attention. A server whose eyes dart all over the place instead of settling on the customer spoils the experience and makes them feel uncomfortable. Too much eye contact, also, is a problem. You don’t want the customer to feel like they’re being stared down. Too much or too little eye contact will make the customer uncomfortable. It’s all about finding an appropriate amount of eye contact and sticking with that.
Not handling complaints immediately
For a customer, nothing sucks as much as sitting around, waiting for something to be done. Servers who take ages handling any complaints or those who do grumpily are a liability. All the customers will remember is the low-quality service they received, even if the food you serve tastes like nirvana.
Talking too fast or too slow
The experience is always essential. While it may not be the server’s fault, talking too fast or too slow will reduce the quality of communication. Customers will have to continually ask the servers to repeat themselves, or even lean in to better hear what’s being said. All this ruins the experience, and it’s something servers have to work on.
Facilities and Design
So, those are some of the mistakes that can be overlooked in customer service. Experience matters a great deal, so managers have to make sure their customers receive top-notch service. Now, let’s talk about a few design issues that might just affect your profit margins.
Bathroom doors that push in rather than out
Details matter when you’re designing your restaurant’s interior. Things that may seem minor can become full-blown inconveniences later on, so it’s essential to pay attention to details. When it comes to bathroom design, most doors can either push in or out. Most people, especially those handling food after leaving the bathroom, prefer doors that push out. This way, they don’t have to handle the doorknob when they exit the bathroom.
Most successful restaurants don’t even let their customers see their waste management systems. It’s vital to present an image of cleanliness. It’s a restaurant after all, and overflowing trash will make customers question the level of hygiene practised in the restaurant. Plus, trash attracts flies and other unsightly insects. Customers won’t trust that they can eat your food without getting sick.
Exposed supplies within the dining area
It has been said, again and again, the experience your establishment offers will play a significant part in ensuring success. A lot of work goes into preparing the food you serve your customers, but they don’t want to see that. Plus, seeing dirty dishes stacked in the sink or ingredients strewn all over reduces the food’s value in the customers’ eyes. Make sure the back of the house operations of your establishment stay hidden from the customers’ eyes like they are supposed to.
Poor Sound System
Acoustics also play a big part in planning your design. You want to hit that soft spot between too loud and too quiet. You don’t want your dining room to be too quiet, filled only with the sounds of forks and spoons scraping against plates. You also don’t want it to be too loud, cause then it’s just distracting, and it ruins the entire experience for the customers. You want a comfortable amount of noise, where customers can have private conversations without having to whisper for privacy or shout to be heard.
When it comes to marketing, there are a few crucial areas that are often overlooked:
The importance of branding cannot be understated. It allows you to make a memorable impression on your customers, and it tells them exactly what they can expect from you. Branding helps to distinguish you from competitors and it allows you to clarify to the customers why they should come to your restaurant and not another one. Plus, brands are personal. When you brand, you turn your restaurant from a business enterprise to an entity that customers can connect and relate with.
A poorly designed and run website or no website at all
In the digital age, we’re currently living in, you have to be crazy not to have an efficient website for your business. These days, no one goes anywhere or does nothing without checking it out online first. At least 33% of customers visit a restaurant’s website before visiting it in person. These are customers you miss out on with an ineffective site. It’s a proven way to market your restaurant and increase sales.
Poor menu design
You cannot skimp on menu design. You just can’t. Managers often overlook the menu. A lot of effort could be spent on the food and decor, but if the menu is of substandard quality, the customer experience is disrupted. We talked about menu design before, and how you can design a menu that will drive sales and increase your profits. A poorly designed menu will put off your customers.
Too many discounts
Many managers think discounts are a reliable way to increase sales, but they couldn’t be more wrong. If you’re constantly offering discounts, you raise the question of quality. It shows that your food is not up to the quality of the original price. Customers will also wonder if anyone is buying food from your restaurant since discounts are usually offered after a dip in sales. So while they may seem like a good idea, discounts hurt your product.
Focusing on outdated marketing strategies
With the advent of social media, the scope of marketing has increased to levels never seen before. With the increased reach, you get with social media, it would be almost suicidal not to exploit it in your marketing campaign. Social media allows you to talk to your customers, find out about their needs and preferences, and to fix any issues they may report. Any marketing campaign that doesn’t incorporate social media is sorely missing out.
Deleting negative comments on social media
Customers want to know that their complaints are being heard. If you keep deleting any negative reviews you get online, customers will get the impression that your restaurant cannot handle constructive criticism, and they may take their business to an establishment that listens to complaints and works to improve on its deficiencies.
Finally, let’s talk about food and food safety. It’s the main selling point of your restaurant, why they walked in, to begin with. Here are a couple of mistakes concerning food that seem to slip past many managers:
Storing frozen raw meat and poultry with or close to cooked food
Meat and poultry that isn’t fresh can mess your stomach up. And no one likes an upset tummy. You see, bacteria grow very rapidly at room temperature. Frozen meat and poultry will thaw unevenly, and bacteria will grow on the melted parts even if the other parts are still frozen solid. This bacteria can then contaminate other foods in the kitchen leading to upset stomachs. And you can be well-assured that no customer will ever come back to your restaurant if they suffer food poisoning from eating your food. There’s no coming back from that.
Improper handling of food and money
This cannot be stressed enough; money and food must always be handled separately by the staff. Money changes hands very frequently, many of those hands unwashed, and all that dirt and bacteria should be kept away from the food.
Not replacing dishrags or sanitising areas
You have to keep up with cleanliness, especially in the kitchen. Dirty dishrags will cause infections, so make sure they are replaced regularly. Investing in strong sanitiser is also essential. Bacteria will grow on surfaces that continuously interact with organic matter, and if these surfaces aren’t regularly sanitised, the bacteria will contaminate the food in the kitchen.
Not delivering the food immediately after cooking
No one likes cold food. It’s the difference between a steaming dish that just feels warm on its way down and a cold, soggy mess. There should be no time lag between the time the food is finished cooking and when it’s served. This way, customers can enjoy the food when it’s hot, and it is a show of how efficient the kitchen staff and servers are at their jobs. Also, leaving the cooked on the counter will give chance to bacteria growth.
Washing raw poultry
Generally, you have to be very careful about how you handle all sorts of meats. You see, raw poultry often carries a bunch of hard to pronounce illness-causing bacteria such as Salmonella. You may think that washing gets rid of the poultry of these pathogens, but it has the opposite effect. Washing poultry splashes these pathogens onto other food, making your staff and customers more vulnerable to illness.
As you can see, there’s a whole lot that can go wrong when you’re running a restaurant. Small issues such as common waitress mistakes, customer service, and food safety can affect restaurant operations in a way you wouldn’t expect. Managers may find it challenging to look at the immense amount of mistakes that could bring their establishment without help. Don’t wait for a restaurant cleanliness audit to bring these issues to light. Glee Hospitality Solutions has been helping managers in the UAE and Saudi optimise their restaurant operations and increase return visits and sales since 2009. Contact us today and let’s make your restaurant run smoothly like a well-oiled machine.