Make it personal

Delight customers and get repeat business by delivering exceptional service. Stevan Premutico explains why and how you should deliver personalised service to your returning guests.

How well do you know your customers? How well do your managers and front of house employees know the people that dine at your restaurant? Who are your regulars? Who are your VIPs? Where do they prefer to sit?

These are questions that everyone at your restaurant should know the answer to. Why? Because guest recognition gives diners a better experience and helps turn a diner into a repeat customer who spends more, while also keeping regular clientele and VIPs happy. Why should you care? Because in a time of fierce competition, establishing a point of difference and giving customers a ‘wow’ experience is critical for survival.

Consider this. You’ve been to a restaurant once before, and the second time you visit the waiter greets you by first name before you have even introduced yourself: “Hi Julie, nice to see you again. Booking for two I see, we’ve seated you at the bar overlooking the kitchen. Come with me, you’re the first to arrive.” Freaky, you think. You remember mentioning that you would like to sit at the bar on your last visit. You brush it off; it must be a fluke.

You sit down and Laura (your waitress) asks if you would like to start with a pisco sour (your favourite drink) or try something different this time? “A pisco would be great”, you reply. Laura returns with your drink, “may I also suggest trying the guacamole special? It’s a winner and much better than that traditional guacamole you had last time.” Mind-blowing stuff. “These guys really know me. I’ll definitely be back”, you say to yourself. With service and food as good as this, it’s a no-brainer.

To some, this scenario may sound strange, for others you might already be treating diners in this way. But this kind of highly personalised hospitality is what restaurants should be striving to deliver. And with such sophisticated technology at our disposal, it’s easy to build meaty diner profiles to deliver a better experience.

It’s not a Big Brother move; it’s simply smart business. For most operators, it costs between four and eight times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Guest recognition helps to build relationships with the people that matter for your business.

Do you have a guest recognition strategy in place? Here are five easy ways to get one started:

  1. Take notes about customer likes and dislikes when they dine and enter them into your reservation system, like Dimmi Pro powered by Resdiary.
  2. Integrate POS and reservation systems so you can store customer information and itemised bills.
  3. Ensure staff are trained well and know about your guest recognition system in order to deliver quality service consistently. Ensure staff review notes before service.
  4. When you flag a VIP (someone who visits weekly, for example), assign a staff member to look after them and maintain the relationship. They might not be Hollywood celebrities, but these VIPs can be crucial to maintaining business and creating buzz. Treat them like royalty.
  5. Note the dates of your top 40 customers’ birthdays/anniversaries. Send out handwritten cards on these occasions to your key regulars. You might want to compliment them with something to incentivise a visit. Knowing someone’s name and their favourite table is a small effort but it goes a long way. Equally, diners don’t want to look like that person who is always asking for something out of the ordinary (especially if it’s dietary related), so make it easy for them, and for you.

Let’s be frank. While the food your diners eat might be exceptional, bad service – or a lack of personalisation – can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. 

Stevan Premutico is CEO and founder of Dimmi, Australia’s online restaurant reservations company. Contact him on stevan@dimmi.com.au.