By Rick Zambrano, Foodable Industry Expert
Restaurants that deliver the highest levels of hospitality set up a business for success. There are things that are much easier for the restaurant to accomplish when it is providing great hospitality, including building sales. Beyond reviews, the hallmark of a good restaurant, whether it is a quick-service style eatery or fine dining neighborhood favorite is the level of service provided. One of the ways that Merriam Webster Dictionary defines hospitality is the “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” Along this line of thinking then, a generous smile, high level of service, ample empathy, welcoming attitude and assurance of comfort for the guest are all part of hospitality.
This generous treatment of guests is multi-faceted and not easy to accomplish, but will drive success for a restaurant. Let’s look at five ways that hospitality helps a restaurant not only survive, but thrive:
1. Hospitality translates into more referrals.
According to research done by Market Force, a customer is more than nine times more likely to refer guests to a restaurant when the restaurant’s service is rated as a “5,” rather than a “4.” In other words, a great experience at a restaurant, comprising of great food and great guest service, goes a long way in getting referred and building new business. That pleasant smile from a greeter, the repeat refills of water, iced tea, juice and soda at a sit-down restaurant, a pleasant “have a good day” or “thank you” when the guest leaves all help word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations. For some chains, the training and retraining of these elements to deliver the “great experience result” is embedded in the culture. For some independents that struggle to keep good staff, it may be much more of a challenge, but is imperative.
2. Hospitality improves ratings on reputation sites.
There’s a lot of public and private criticism of review sites like Yelp. And there will always be users who post negative remarks just because they have nothing better to do. But in many cases, there are repeat diners in a neighborhood that do share their restaurant experiences on Yelp, and this is now a reality that restaurateurs have to contend with. Great hospitality helps earn better reviews among users who use the site properly and report their experiences to other review-site users. Instead of spending a lot of time responding to negative comments from Yelp users, a restaurant owner or manager could be doing many of the other things a restaurant requires to operate smoothly. Yelp ratings often do matter when prospective customers are evaluating similar restaurant choices and when other considerations, including neighborhood location, are equal.
3. Hospitality keeps customers coming back.
My local better-burger eatery is an example of a restaurant that makes my quick-dining choices easier. I know I will get a consistent product and a generous greeting and “thank you” as I leave. I’ve recommended it to friends and family, but more importantly, I make it part of my weekly routine. This example could just as easily be a sit-down place, but I make it my example because I believe many operators don’t realize how much hospitality they can provide within a quick-serve setting, whether it be a fast food outlet or a fast-casual or fine-casual restaurant.
Hospitality is a big driver of repeat business from guests. In some cases, hospitality trumps the quality of food even — in other words, on a day when the food is just OK, great hospitality can change the perception of the experience and the customer can be a lot more forgiving. According to QSR Magazine, a good 82 percent of people that do not come back to a restaurant cite the service and attitude provided by the restaurant’s people as the main reason.
4. Hospitality forges a connection with customers.
In marketing, we talk about customer engagement a lot. But think about one of the best ways to engage customers: hospitality inside the restaurant. This is certainly where all marketing efforts begin — in the execution of excellence within the four walls. Generous and friendly treatment will go a long way in making customers feel welcome and helping them forget the stress points of their day. It’s a time when the restaurant operates like a symphony, cuing up a harmony that entices and pleases the guest. Providing great hospitality creates a channel to communicate the story of the restaurant, to captivate the guest and to keep the guest interested in the restaurant.
5. Hospitality improves brand equity.
Finally, hospitality can help define a restaurant brand and build its brand equity. Think of Union Hospitality Group in New York, or the Richard Sandoval Restaurants or Black Restaurant Group in Washington, DC. All of these restaurant companies are defined by unparalleled levels of service. For these restaurants and many others, each guest experience is akin to making a deposit in a bank account, it just builds the equity and value that is there.
For any restaurateur or restaurant operator, hospitality helps put more value into his or her brand. And all of these ways that hospitality helps a restaurant survive, also makes a restaurant thrive. Keep success within reach by improving and refining your hospitality, making the guest experience generous and friendly to all customers.