If you’re in the hospitality industry, you know how tricky it can be to manage guest expectations. Meeting those expectations is one thing, surpassing them is a whole other universe of expert-level mastery. If you’re managing a hotel, a restaurant, or doing larger scale catering, continually evolving services is a must.
Unless you’re the diveist of dives and lousy service with good food is your schtick, the rest of the industry isn’t so lucky. People are fickle, and there’s always someone around the block ready to put a few more bucks into their programs or at least hire the friendliest staff in town. If you’re investing into the health of the business, even if it’s as small as menu updates or new software for the POS machines for faster service, you’re hurting the business down the stretch.
While some hotel updates can take a while to pull off, which can also get expensive, depending on how fancy you want to go, there are plenty of little things a team can do to ensure guests coming back, and even better – leaving glowing online reviews.
So what can you do to make an impact right now and without a significant punch to the wallet? There’s a lot, actually.
Think About Breakfast
It’s crossed your mind, it’s crossed everyone whoever runs a restaurant’s mind: could we pull off a breakfast menu? Why not give it a soft try? One of the greatest secrets of the service industry is that breakfast foods are generally pretty cheap when buying wholesale. Pancakes and waffles are the same batter, toast is just bread, everything else is sausage, bacon, cheese, eggs, and veggies – stuff you’re probably already stocking.
Now, this obviously comes with the caveat of thinking about clientele and location. If you’re seated in a busy downtown, there’s probably a lot of substantial foot traffic, or maybe you’ve got die-hard customers that come back weekly? A fine dining spot doesn’t have a need to serve breakfast tacos because it’s not a part of their purview, but the local sandwich shop? Why not? Try running a few specials throughout the week. Breakfast is an easy and profitable way to make more money, but also it’s an easy way to keep people engaged. If you’re running a hotel, having a breakfast program keeps people inside rather than hitting up the local I-Hop.
Engage with Guests Before They Know You
No matter what your business, you need to be on social media. It doesn’t mean you need to be on there 24/7 but having a Facebook page for people to like and get updates couldn’t hurt. Same goes for Instagram, especially if you’re serving some fantastic food. Whole business empires have launched thanks to social media.
Are you sharing special events happening or keeping customers up on changes? Encourage guests to check-in on social media and leave reviews. Many places will even offer a discount on food if they prove they’ve left a positive review on sites like Trip Advisor or Yelp!
Send out periodic marketing messages via text or email offering discounts. Offer a 25 percent discount during the holiday’s or a deeper discount on their birthday, these simple gestures keep you top of mind, but also are easy for the budget to absorb. Because despite that one meal costing a fraction of the price, one or two people will probably join them so the total will typically be a lot higher than the original price.
If you’re running a hotel and someone’s booked a room, why not send them a thank you email or a countdown till their stay? Don’t flood their inbox, but a fun correspondence creates a positive experience quickly and costs you little.
It’s Cliché, but a Good Attitude Matters
We’re not saying everyone has to be a smiling robot, but when someone is working the front desk or at a hostess stand it’s important to greet people with genuine warmth. Everyone has bad days. There are always exceptions to the rule, but overall, this is a simple gesture that many teams overlook. If you’re running fine dining or a hotel, considering running through the guest book and getting an idea of who’s coming, their names, so when it’s arrival time, the transaction goes smoothly. Showing that you’ve prepared for their arrival makes guests feel appreciated.
Have Coffee and Tea Available Around the Clock
This one is obviously geared towards anyone in the hotel industry, but seriously, make sure there’s always a batch of hot coffee ready. People come and go at all hours. Maybe they’re dealing with a situation, and they need a quick cup of joe to keep them going through the night, or perhaps they have to hit the road onto the next town bright and early, but whatever the situation is, having a communal pot of coffee is a win that’s just so easy.
Pro tip: The same thing goes for free wi-fi that actually works. No matter if you’re in the hotel business or running a bar, someone is working or taking photos of their food, but whatever the case, don’t get left behind.
Invest in Customer Relationships
As everyone is well aware, there’s a lot of competition in restaurants, so every interaction makes a difference. One of the biggest things to consider about not just working with the service industry, but in life, is that everything revolves around relationships. It doesn’t take anything extra to engage with guests. Down in Austin, Texas, there’s a local favorite called Juan in a Million which serves delicious Tex-Mex fare, but the difference maker is that Juan is right there near the register, offering handshakes to customers, remembering the locals, and always asking new faces if they’re in school, if they’re new to town, or just passing through. While not everyone is as outgoing, the process has built up a loyal fanbase that keeps the restaurant busy every day of the week, even though they’re closed by 3 p.m.
That simple social investment back into his people has allowed the little mom and pop joint to become an icon of one of the fastest-growing cities in America, and all it took was asking how someone’s day is going with a warm handshake.
Say Yes to Happy Hour
If your state and city laws are cool with it, a Happy Hour is always a solid way to get people into your spot. There’s a method to the madness, while the prices are lower on some apps or maybe a dollar off drinks, in the end, there’s a massive value add because people more apt to spend in the long run. So, while the top end might be a bit smaller, it’s the perfect play for loyalty.
Learn the Locale
If your spot sees a lot of out of towner traffic, encourage your team to offer tips and tricks for detailed recommendations about local delicacies or just where to get a cold beer after a long day. If you’re in Orlando but have some insider knowledge on the best time to catch fireworks or ride rides, give those hidden gems to the people. Same goes for New York or Chicago, people love to experience life as a local rather than a tourist, they want the experience, hence why travel shows like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown remain so popular – this is also true for Airbnb and Home Away’s popularity.
There’s a lot you can do, even if the budget is small. All it takes is a little creative thinking.