When you were younger, the role models in your family encouraged you to listen to others. You may not have known how important it was to listen to people; you were still young at the time. Back then, it was all about listening to your elders and taking in their wisdom. As a restaurant owner, however, you’re usually the one that people want to learn from. You’re the supposed wisdom, even if you’re new to this industry. The people you work with and interact with should absolutely look to you for guidance, but you should be open to feedback from them.
Even the seasoned restaurant/bar owner understands how important it is for you to use your ears and listen. Lending your ears to people’s thoughts can open you up to a whole world of good ideas. An open mind goes a long way in figuring out how to improve your restaurant/bar. It can also help you prevent potential issues, or even mediate issues that are festering within the work environment. Putting effort toward implementing feedback-based changes can increase profitability on the whole.
Listening to Your Employee’s Ideas as a Whole
As a restaurant owner, you are your company’s leader. You need to have a strong, confident say in what happens at every level of the restaurant. Just the same, you need to have a handle on how the folks who work for you are feeling about your establishment. Conversations are a two-way street; you have to look both ways. Dedicate a meeting time regularly to hear what your employees have to say. You may not like everything that they’re saying, but constructive feedback is important to the growth of your restaurant. Who knows? Maybe one of their ideas will be the one to bring in business on those slow Tuesday nights. Give them a chance to elevate the business that little bit.
Talk to Your Front of House Staff
Your employees are the front line of your establishment. Since the servers and bartenders are the ones constantly interacting with the customers, doesn’t it make sense to ask them about how the customers feel? Everyone has something to say about the way the restaurant is run. In order to keep your employees satisfied, lend an ear to their ideas as often as you can. Your employees will not only feel included and important, but they’re also much more likely to stick around if management actually cares about how they feel. Employee retention is critical to keep the money coming in, especially when employee turnover rates increase every year (it’s over 70% this year).
Ask for Feedback from Back of House
The same thing goes for the back of house staff. While they’re slaving away at the grill, the chefs, cooks and food-runners are all chatting with each other at some point about what’s happening at the restaurant. Maybe there’s a consistent issue with a produce supplier, or a problem with organizing kitchen equipment. Regardless of what the issue is, be mindful of how the members of your kitchen staff feel. Their jobs can be incredibly stressful, and any little thing that can be done to make their work easier should be considered at least. Happy kitchen personnel means better food and fewer mistakes/setbacks, which eventually leads to more money in your pocket.
Customer feedback is almost more important than employee feedback when it comes to proper management. They can tell you first hand how they feel about their dining experience. Have your servers and bartenders gathering feedback when they’re on the floor. It doesn’t need to be a big deal at all. Every once in awhile, they can slip a question in about the restaurant when they’re asking about how their meal was.
In addition, you should get on the restaurant floor from time to time and speak directly to the customers. If they’re regulars, start to build a relationship with them. Make your most valuable customers a part of the restaurant conversation as a whole.
Don’t Get Too Deep Into Reviews
Everyone loves to get a positive shout out. It’s great to go on yelp and hear about how so many people had a wonderful dining experience at your restaurant. On the other hand, bad reviews can be horrible for business. One negative review has a stronger impact than 10 positive ones. Depending on what the reviewer is writing, even a completely inaccurate review can keep new customers away. Not to mention, you work very hard to keep your restaurant at the highest standards. Nobody wants to hear their restaurant talked down, especially when it’s blunt and straightforward in a review.
With all of that said, don’t obsess over the opinions of a few pissy customers. Unhappy customers cannot and should not ever be a pattern – they’re destructive to business. You risk alienating your target market, however, if you try to go and please everyone. Always keep your ears open, but also don’t let your day-to-day be bogged down by insignificant reviews.
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