Five Ways to Increase Your Restaurant Customer Trust

It seems like every week, another restaurant chain is making headlines for a foodborne illness or stock withdrawal. At the same time, increasingly quality-conscious consumers hold restaurants to higher standards than ever. When managing complex modern food supply chains, how can restaurants reassure skeptical customers?

Here are five ways restaurant food safety and quality experts can strengthen trust in their businesses and their industry.

Open Up Communication Among Teams

Get everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to standards and processes.

Educate everyone—from executives and managers to servers and kitchen staff—about the principles driving your safety and quality mission. Listen to employees’ concerns and ideas about their role in identifying and capturing incidents.

Open internal communication will establish a consistent vocabulary. By empowering employee advocates to articulate your brand promise, your commitment to supply chain health will carry through to customers.

Prioritize Supply Chain Traceability

Instill trust by demonstrating the capacity to track the source of every ingredient on your menu. Use traceability software to account for each step in your supply chain and quickly address issues when they arise.

This level of farm-to-fork intelligence will build more confident and responsive teams, which will come across when you communicate with and serve your customers. Eventually, customers will mirror that confidence back to your brand.

Embrace Radical Transparency

“Radical transparency is a cultural mandate set by leadership that a company will not only be forthcoming with customers about the good, the bad and the ugly,” says marketer Jay Baer. “But that it will also work to make that information readily available.”

Build a consensus for transparency from the top down. An executive can be radically transparent when addressing stock withdrawals with the public on social media or the company blog. Similarly, a restaurant server can be educated about the organization’s traceability strategy and armed with supplier information so he or she can confidently answer customers’ questions

Involve Food Quality and Safety Teams in Marketing Campaigns

Greater integration between food safety managers and marketing managers will help you incorporate quality and safety messaging into your …

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social media channels
  • Profiles on external review sites
  • PR efforts
  • Menus and other store collateral

Include your quality mission statement on customer-facing materials, but don’t stop there.

“Merely making your policies available to the public isn’t enough,” says the Center for Food Integrity in its 2015 Consumer Trust Research report. “Policy is the way a company or organization articulates motivation. Practice is the way you demonstrate your commitment. Consumers are saying, ‘Show me your practices and explain to me how you’re verifying them.’ ”

Use stories, images and videos to show your practices in action. Take customers behind the scenes into internal discussions. Partner with suppliers to provide a glimpse into production processes.

Ask Customers What They Care About

Solicit customer input through surveys and focus groups; listen to anecdotes from employees who interact with customers daily. As you prioritize initiatives to tackle in 2016, ask customers what matters most to them. Is it preservatives? GMOs? Animal welfare? Local ingredients?

When customers are invited to join these conversations, they feel like your organization cares about them, the community, the supply chain and the environment.

Above all, be genuine. The public has a “big is bad” mentality, says the Center for Food Integrity. “Big Food is susceptible to growing public perception that profit is being placed ahead of public interest.”

Combat this skepticism by showing the compassion and humanity of the individuals that make up your brand.