Check the specials from the table and strengthen the customer experience

Article by Aaron Copestake | 10th October 2019

When it comes to deflating experiences that leave you wishing you’d stayed home, a restaurant way off its game has to be up there.

To lift my spirits after a dine-out disaster, I’ll browse the worst reviews for that restaurant—while I’m still *in* the restaurant soaking up the regret—if only to remind myself that there are folks out there who’ve had it worse.

A small victory, granted, though at least I get to leave with something vaguely resembling a smile on my face, if put there by someone else’s misfortune and not my own memorable experience.

One of the biggest clangers food and beverage handlers can drop is uttering the three forbidden words…

“I don’t know…”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

‘Unforgivable’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Food & beverage handlers giving this answer to a customer in front of a manager likely won’t be food & beverage handlers for long and might find themselves out back repurposed to ‘pots and pans handler’.

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can harm your bottom line

You don’t have to turn over many rocks to find examples of just how much damage a lack of staff knowledge can do to both the customer experience and restaurant brand perception.

We’ll spare this restaurant the ‘name-and-shame’ blushes. Let’s just say they should count themselves lucky that this punter from Tripadvisor seems to have given them the benefit of the doubt, having inexplicably returned multiple times.

Brace yourselves

“Every waiter we’ve ever had at this place has no clue about what’s on their menu or indeed what each item consists of…”

Shots fired… and he’s not done just yet.

“I had the entire team of staff and management in a confuzzled state simply because I wanted to hold the fresh cream from my milkshake – it seemed they couldn’t imagine a milkshake without a 6-inch stack of fresh cream sat atop”

And for dessert?

Why is it every waiter we get is “just new”? Is your staff turnaround problem really that big?…”

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

And it really will. To those in hospitality, it’s no secret that movement in star-rating across authority review sites correlate with changes in bottom-line revenue.

Given that  a one-star increase in restaurant rating is associated with 19% increase in restaurant revenue, it’s fair to say that a decrease will have the converse effect.

Restaurants should be reaching for the stars by aiming to reduce the potential for the “I don’t know” scenarios with proper onboarding and adequate training of new FOH staff.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

The reality out in the field is that hand-holding and granular training is a luxury F&B handlers don’t always have. Often it’s a baptism of fire with new staff thrown into a busy  service from day one and are required to run before they can walk to pace-match an understaffed, overstretched team. The detail gets lost in the chaos of a hectic bookings calendar and the “I don’t knows” start to pile up.

In a perfect world, FOH teams would be properly induced and upskilled before being set loose and exposed to the scrutiny and awkward questions of paying diners. They’d come complete with encyclopedic knowledge of potential allergens, ingredients and food preparation…. And the daily specials.

Let’s face it—unless you’re a michelin star restaurant with significant resource allocated to comprehensive, off-the-job training, then this perfect-world scenario is an unrealistic nice-to-have.

On your marks, headset… ‘Go!’

So what’s the workaround?

Instead of relying on F&B handlers to do their homework and achieve flawless information retention 100% of the time, how can restaurants give their teams the breathing room of ‘not knowing’, without jeopardising the brand perception in customers’ minds?

Restaurants already adopt tech for problem solving in the BOH and FOH environments. Personal digital assistants for tableside payments, printers for order sending to kitchen and bar, clever touch-screens to map out and coordinate floor plans, bookings and bills.

These are all examples of embedding tech that creates efficiencies with a positive net impact on margins and profitability.  One thing missing here is an additional tech layer that turns a team into a collection of nodes—that become greater than the sum of their parts—able to coordinate remotely and share knowledge seamlessly to empower one another.

Imagine empowering your FOH staff to remain table-side with the customer and confirm the daily specials via a discrete push-to-talk headset? By simply interconnecting your restaurant anatomy, you improve agility, responsivity and avoid the ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’ll just go check’ facepalm moments that can be so costly.

Individually, your team can’t know everything all of the time. Connect a team using lightweight, full-duplex headset technology and they’ll run as a single organism able to reference the collective knowledge bank to bring competence a 5-star shine to every service.

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