Here’s an important – but often overlooked – truth for the restaurant industry: To make your customers to feel valued and appreciated, you must get their orders right!
All too often, restaurants are fumbling on that basic principle. Perhaps they’re understaffed and struggling to keep up with incoming orders. Or employees haven’t been properly (and regularly) trained. It might be a simple miscommunication, where the person taking the order misheard the customer’s special request. Maybe there was a breakdown in communication somewhere along the internal meal preparation process.
Regardless of how it happened, your vegetarian customer got a regular hamburger instead of a veggie burger, and now they’re furious.
Why is order accuracy so important for a restaurant? Incorrect orders can lead to:
- Decreased customer loyalty. Customers expect to get what they ordered when they visit (or get take-out from) restaurants. Incorrect orders are a top complaint, leaving customers frustrated and upset. One wrong order can prevent a customer from returning.
- Scathing reviews. One unhappy guest can spread horrible reviews about your restaurant across social media, which can decrease customer loyalty, sales and, ultimately, your reputation. On average, one negative review leads to 30 lost customers. Online reviews matter, as 22 percent of people will avoid a restaurant after reading just one negative review about it. If a restaurant has three negative reviews, that number increases to 59 percent.
- Increased waste (and related costs). Inaccuracy leads to more waste and related expenses since your team will need to toss the incorrect order and remake it correctly. At a time where every dollar counts, this waste can negatively impact your bottom line. Not only will your restaurant lose money processing inaccurate order returns, but you’ll also face the added expense of trying to appease unhappy customers, which could mean comping their meal. That means you’ve made a meal twice, and not gotten paid for either one! Doing that repeatedly will add up quickly.
To increase order accuracy, your restaurant should:
- Prioritize training. Restaurants have been understaffed for the past few years, with one million fewer employees than the restaurant industry had pre-pandemic. When restaurants are short-staffed, training may become an afterthought, as other high-priority tasks loom. Shift that mindset. If your employees aren’t properly trained, they could make mistakes that could jeopardize food safety and quality, client satisfaction, and even your restaurant’s reputation. Even when things are hectic, training must remain a priority.
- Implement software. Tech tools allow you to identify critical factors impacting order accuracy. These include how many employees are working per shift, how special requests are communicated, how modified meals are marked, etc. Use an integrated digital system that streamlines the process, reduces human errors, tracks compliance, and increases accuracy.
- Clarify and verify. Order accuracy starts at the very beginning of the process, with the person taking the order. Ensure employees repeat the order back to the customer as they enter it into their system, double-checking any special requests. Instruct staff members to ask questions if they’re unclear about the order or any modifications needed. Then, be certain that the special requests are properly communicated through every step of the meal preparation process. Digital tools make the communication easier and more accurate.
- Check and double check. Maybe a guest doesn’t like tomatoes and wants them left off their sandwich. Or a customer has a life-threatening peanut allergy and must be absolutely certain that there are no peanuts in their meal. No matter the reason behind the special request, everyone on staff should take it seriously. Make it standard procedure to double-check the order against the original ticket – at every production stage – to ensure proper specifications are being followed.
- Mark modified items clearly. Make sure the pizza with no onions or mushrooms doesn’t get mixed up with the nearby veggie pizza by marking the modified items clearly. For food allergic guests, this effort is even more critical, so identify allergy-friendly meals with colored frill picks, special plates or packaging, or stickers on to-go bags.
- Elevate online reviews. Online reviews can really make or break a business. Most customers (97 percent) rely on online reviews to decide which businesses to patronize – and which to avoid. Therefore, your team should do everything possible to secure more positive reviews and decrease negative ones. That means providing exceptional customer service, clean facilities, safe food, and accurate orders.
- Track and improve performance. If you don’t measure performance, you can’t improve it. Tech tools let you track employee performance, looking at things like compliance and accountability, so you can identify (and fix) any problems immediately. Integrated tech tools can provide an overview of performance data across the enterprise, or drill down by restaurant location or employee. Be certain that your leadership team is regularly reviewing this information and using the data to make any necessary adjustments.
- Incentivize employees to improve. To boost order accuracy, offer incentives to employees that excel in this area. Motivate employees to improve order accuracy by offering financial bonuses, free days off, gift cards, etc. Praise high-performing employees in team meetings. Incentive programshave been shown to increase employee performance by as much as 44 percent.
- Build predictive models. Tech tools are imperative to this initiative. Use digital solutions to collect data, consider factors that can impact order accuracy, and build a predictive model. Using an algorithm is instrumental to making predictions and learning.
- Correct mistakes immediately. Mistakes happen, so have a set protocol for handling incorrect orders in a way that satisfies customers and makes them want to return. Perhaps you comp the incorrect meal or provide a gift certificate for a free meal in the future. Establish a policy on how incorrect orders will be handled, such as having a manager offer a refund, free desserts, or drinks on the house. Be sure your staff apologizes profusely for any mistake, making the customer feel valued and appreciated.
When you improve order accuracy, you’ll also improve other key metrics, including customer satisfaction, loyalty, repeat business, word-of-mouth recommendations, and positive reviews. Even when your restaurant is busy, follow these tips to ensure that your customers get their correct order and enjoy their meal.