A Simple Step to Improve Customer Satisfaction and Retention

Great service can make up for poor food, but great food cannot make up for poor service. It sounds cliché, but there is a lot of truth in that sentiment. 

Proper training is a necessary expense and it's important to remember that training is a never-ending cycle. Staff needs to be continually reminded of all essential training to set a clear expectation for all employees.

A successful pre-meal meeting is a simple way to improve daily functions.

All food service managers want employees to be trained in the following key areas:

  • Knowledgeable about the menu and menu item specifications
  • Allergens–especially on new menu items or specials
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Immediate concerns
  •  Menu Substitutions, equipment failures, staff shortages and a plan to deal with them

Yearly training on subjects such as proper dishwashing temperatures, titration levels, and handwashing are commendable. In order to make training valuable, the information needs to be continually reiterated. Managers need to have a means to effectively communicate time-sensitive subjects such as allergens and immediate safety concerns to the staff.

This is the role of a successful pre-service or pre-shift daily meeting. Every shift there should be a meeting, fifteen minutes in length at the longest, that covers essential information for the day. If the meeting goes any longer than fifteen-minutes, staff members will quickly lose interest.

These are the elements of a successful pre-meal meeting:

Food Tasting 

Every member of your staff, especially cooks and servers, should be able to describe the dishes that are being served at your facility.  This knowledge base will show customers that the staff is fully trained and competent. A server telling a guest that they do not know what a dish tastes like or doesn’t know the main ingredients shows a lack of care and commitment.  This does not mean that all staff should be forced to taste a particular dish. There are circumstances such as food allergies or personal preferences that will make a staff member not want to try a particular item. In this case, the employee should have the dish described to them by another employee and be required to accurately explain the item.

Immediate Concerns 

There is an infinite number of immediate concerns that can arise on any given day. There are things that pop up that may seem less obvious. Perhaps you have a habitual customer that has a reservation for the night with a particular dietary request they make on every visit, or perhaps they always order the same drink. Make sure your staff is aware of that. This extra step can boost customer satisfaction.

A Recap of a Policy or Expectation

This is not a time to roll out a new policy. It is a great time to reinforce the current expectations that you have. Remind your staff how you expect them to greet customers, how to present checks, or simply remind them of the proper handwashing technique. This is not the proper place for full training. It is simply a way to remind staff that this is important and they know what the expectations are.

Positive Recognition of Your Staff

Everyone loves positive reinforcement. There are simple tasks that staff members do on a day to day basis that go unrecognized. This is a great way to recognize the mundane activities that go on behind the scenes. Perhaps a cook organized the cooler during a slow period, or whoever swept and mopped the floors the night before did a great job. Let them know that you saw their work and appreciate it.

Thank the Staff

The hospitality industry is difficult and stressful. Every member on your team deserves to be thanked for what they do.  It will make them feel appreciated for what they do which will help build a good relationship. This will overflow into their customer interactions.

The pre-meal meeting when done properly will improve your customer satisfaction.  Your staff will become more knowledgeable and have improved engagement. This, in turn, will lead to improved customer satisfaction. This builds a culture in a facility that will lead to improved customer retention. A successful pre-meal meeting is cheap and a simple way to improve the daily functions at your facility.