Elevating Guest Experience: Mastering Phone Etiquette for Restaurant Staff

Surprisingly, phone calls are often the lifeblood of every restaurant, regardless of size or cuisine; the hospitality industry is, after all, all about human interaction. Potential customers will want to know what today’s special is, if there are vegan options, what time you open, if they can make a reservation for catering, and so much more. Even though many of these answers can easily be found online, on your app, or through an automated phone service, your staff will still have to take phone calls every day. Making sure they’re ready is a key part of training.

In the food industry, the way employees interact with customers is the most crucial part of your business. Customer experience is king. It is actually more important, in most cases, than how delicious your food is, so it’s very important to make sure that phone interactions – often the first impression people get of your restaurant – are positive. Here are eight things to tell your staff when you’re training them on proper phone etiquette:

1. Listen

Even if you’re anticipating the most common questions that you’re asked, it’s important to take time to let your caller fully ask a question before you interrupt with an answer. Interrupting people is rude and makes them feel minimized. In addition, they may have a question you weren’t expecting, and answering it before they’re fully finished asking it lets them know you aren’t listening.

2. Focus on the Conversation

Don’t let the distractions of the kitchen or other customers distract you during your conversation. You’d be surprised how quickly people can tell if you’re not really paying attention to them, even over the phone. It’s not enjoyable to be treated like a distraction. When you answer the phone, be ready to devote a few minutes to genuinely helping the caller.

3. Don’t Answer if You Can’t Spare the Time

If there is a long line at your restaurant, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, answering the phone is not going to improve your situation. It makes the people standing in line frustrated, and your obvious distraction and rushed speech will make the people on the phone feel unwanted. If you have a lot of phone calls coming in when you’re already extremely busy, it might be time to look for another solution, like an answering service or phone automation. But even if you don’t, be sure to only focus on one conversation at a time.

4. Don’t Rush Through Anything You’re Saying

Remember to maintain a steady and unhurried speaking pace during phone conversations. Particularly when fatigued or overwhelmed, take care to enunciate clearly, especially when mentioning your restaurant's name. The person on the other end of the line doesn’t know how busy or tired you are, and is fully expecting a pleasant conversation with a helpful person.

5. Be Prepared

People may ask for directions to your restaurant, or for a list of ingredients in a particular dish due to allergy issues, or one of many other questions. You need to be ready to answer as many questions as you can, so your customers will feel comfortable and you can help them quickly. Know the obvious information – what the special is, information about your best-selling dishes, how to direct someone to get to the building from multiple directions.

6. Smile

People can hear genuine enthusiasm and friendliness in your tone. If you’re smiling, callers can tell, and it immediately puts them at ease and makes them feel wanted, which is one of the most important ways you can increase orders. Smiling on the phone can actually improve your entire restaurant’s reputation by letting customers know it’s full of friendly, helpful people.

7. Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated

This one is obvious. This advice has been around for a long time, and with good reason; treating others the way you want to be treated means they’ll be treated with courtesy, kindness, and humanity every time. Treat them as your friend or family member, and your conversations will always end well.

8. Thank Callers

Finally, one of the most important things you can do on a phone call is to thank customers for calling. Even if they’re letting you know about something that went wrong with their order, remember that they’re taking time out of their day to inquire at your restaurant – when there are so many options available. Thanking them for making that decision will leave a positive feeling at the end of the conversation, which makes them more likely to call back or visit again in the future.

When your staff uses these eight tips, restaurant phone calls will go from a frustrating interruption to a helpful way to not only interact with customers, but also to increase orders.