Start with the basics and focus on getting them right!

New Year is a good time to reflect, plan and perhaps employ some fresh thinking about your business. Are there areas in which you have become stuck? Nine times out of ten, all you need to do is go back to the basics and focus on getting them right.

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So what are the basics in the context of restaurants and pubs?

In the Aviatrix Women’s Survey 2013 – published at the end of this month – over 1000 women were asked what was the number one reason dictating their choice of restaurant. For 39% the primary reason for choosing a restaurant was the quality of the food.  In the opinion of the women who responded to the survey, the weakest area of performance in restaurants is also food quality with 60% stating this. No surprises there then!

The problem is that only 4% of people who have a reason to complain will actually do so whilst they are still in the restaurant/bar. That means that 96% of customers will leave without complaining if they have a problem (and tell their friends instead). You all know the old DTI statistics, which state that one disgruntled customer tells 9 – 15 people and 13% will tell more than 20 people etc. But the world of hospitality has just got a whole lot more complicated with Facebook, Trip Advisor, Twitter, Yell.com among others.  Disgruntled customers now have an audience of thousands and possibly millions.

Let us not forget that if you are getting everything right, then the recommendations spread through these websites and your reputation builds just as fast.  Of the women we asked, 36% looking for somewhere to go will rely on recommendations and 11% will refer to online reviews.

So what can you do?

  • Do not put your head in the sand – get stuck in!  Use social media to advertise the good work that you are doing.  Monitor what is being said about you and respond in a positive, authentic and constructive way – keep the emotion ou.  You will be surprised how receptive customers can be.
  • The latest research published in the Harvard Business Review it takes five positive messages to negate one negative comment, so get communicating about the good stuff going on with your business – new dishes, promotions, events, news about staff members, drink offers, anything worth hearing about.
  • Have a panel of loyal customers with whom you can communicate on a regular basis to ensure that you are on top of any problems before they become major issues.
  • Have a customer measurement program that actively encourages feedback – making it easy for customers to share their opinions shows that you care. Let customers see how you are responding to the feedback and what action you are taking.
  • Remain objective and do not get emotional – if there is a pattern in what people are saying, there is a problem. This kind of feedback is gold dust and should be viewed as ‘insight with a kick’. Listen and take positive action. Do not waste time being defensive or questioning the validity of the complaints.
  • If you can’t be objective (which I completely understand), employ an independent expert to conduct an audit of your customers’ views and find out what they think and where you can improve. I guarantee that the cost of your investment will generate a return. But only if you heed the recommendations and take action.
  • Remember, women make over 80% of the decisions when it comes to planning an evening out. So ensure you listen to women most carefully.  Women really do care, and generally speaking, they will give you a detailed account of good and bad experiences, which will help you focus on key issues.
  • Finally, invent a rigorous and fail proof way of ensuring that your customers are having a good experience WHILST THEY ARE STILL IN THE RESTAURANT. Fix the problems and show you care BEFORE THEY LEAVE. Nando’s, for example, has a great system: a wooden spoon is assigned to each table and only retrieved by the waiter after he has ensured that the customer is satisfied with his meal.  Allowing anyone to leave your premises unhappy is the equivalent of letting a child go to school with chicken pox while still contagious – everyone will catch it!

My best advice is always to listen to your customers AND respond to the feedback as if it was YOUR truth. Add this to your New Year’s resolution list. Listening to your customers is humbling and is a guaranteed route to success. Stick to the basics. Deliver quality food and fabulous service to your guests and do not let them leave with a reason to damage your reputation.

And the truth is, if you make a resolution backed up by a plan, you are far more likely to stick to it. Just make it realistic and achievable. Despite all the negative press about resolutions, approximately one quarter of people who make a resolution do stick at it – make sure you are one of those people!

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