Tips for better table service

Article by Aaron Copestake | 19th September 2019

 ‘It’s all about the experience…’

Not the most earth-shattering revelation for those in hospitality.

It’s a no brainer—as diners, we want great food, but it has to come with all the trimmings. Food tastes better when you have a triple side of great atmosphere, smiling staff and discreet, but attentive service.

Achieve the perfect restaurant experience and not only will you keep your customers happy, you’ll get them paying more, and keep them coming back.

Reality check

Knowing what diners want isn’t rocket salad, yet only 1% of customers feel that companies consistently meet their customer service expectations.

Why is this…? Well, customer expectation is not a constant—in some people’s eyes, what might have been seen as exceptional service in the past, may now be expected as standard.

This might explain the surge in restaurants that try to deliver a novel, niche concept to freshen things up and bring back the shine using anything from open-plan kitchens, green botanical interiors, quirky typography and interior design concepts that even include on-brand bathroom soaps.

Here’s the problem—by its very nature, novelty doesn’t last. These visual perks enhance atmosphere but do little to strengthen the core deliverables of great food and quality table service that will keep people coming back.

So how can more traditional restaurant brands pick up their game without knocking through to the kitchen or having ivy climb up diners’ legs?

A study by Deloitte entitled ‘Through guests’ eyes’ claims there are 5 basic requirements that restaurants need to deliver to get customers to set foot in their restaurant: quality, value, cleanliness, location, and staff.

Ok… so how do I know a restaurant ticks these boxes before I’ve even eaten there?

Word-of-mouth and reviews… of course.

Now empower me

Hospitality is the single most reviews-dependent industry out there. People forget what you say, but they’ll remember how you make them feel. Leave your customers feeling let-down, and they’ll also feel compelled to discourage others.

To squeeze those gold dust 5-star reviews from diners, restaurants need to tick the ‘quality’, ‘value’, ‘cleanliness’, ‘location’ and ‘staff’ boxes all at once. This box-ticking can be made all the easier by giving the customer greater control over their dining experience.

Known as ‘empower me’, it’s the second most important aspect of the guest experience behind ‘engage me’—where your front of house team interacts hospitably with diners. Sow how to restaurants ‘empower’ their customers?

Deloitte defines the ‘empower me’ deliverable as giving the customer the ability to customise to their specific needs and offer the example of Starbucks, known as it is, for the borderline ridiculous order combinations possible…

”give me a skinny vanilla, two pump, chai frappuccino with caramel and whipped cream!”

Some people poke fun… but far more people value the ability to control and fine tune their own experience. That’s real customer empowerment. Nobody ever wrote a bad restaurant review for having over-seasoned their own steak. Plenty of folks write bad reviews if their steak arrives over-seasoned… because they’ve been disempowered.

Forget over-seasoned steaks though. Overwhelmingly, the most common theme across poor restaurant reviews is… wait for it…


Waiting to be seated, waiting for drinks, waiting for orders to be taken, and waiting for the bill. Remember what we were saying about remembering how you’re made to feel? Yeah.. waiting doesn’t feel good.

VoCoVo takes the ‘wait’ off your customers’ shoulders

5-star ambitions require 5-star thinking.

Restaurants need to give customers as little reason to find fault as possible. Unless your operation is military, ‘waiting’ is a potential weak point at almost every stage of the dining experience.

How can restaurants iron out these weak points to make the dining experience seamless?

The solution might be technological—VoCoVo KeyPads empower diners to curate elements of the experience themselves. With a range of fully customisable buttons, KeyPads sit at the diner’s side enabling button pushes to request ‘menus’, ‘drinks’, ‘deserts’, ‘the bill’ and so on. Each button press is translated to voice messages routed to allocated staff headsets or handsets—staff can respond quickly to remain attentive and paying guests enjoy a smoother experience less punctuated by the intermittent waiting and finger-snapping that ultimately leaves a bad aftertaste.

In an industry built on low margins, high volumes and a strong dependency on diner-reviews, can restaurants afford not to empower customers?

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