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5 Steps to Personalize Restaurant Guest Experience

Mike Vichich
created on
Jan 11, 2016

Hospitality and guest experience is why guests return to your restaurant. Danny Meyer is on record saying that recognition "is the number one reason guests cite for wanting to return." 


But how exactly can you make sure you have an excellent guest experience–every single visit, across all shifts and day parts, across all locations, and despite the inevitable turnover in FOH staff? Here are five steps to personalize a guest's experience, thereby increasing customer retention.  


1. Know your regular guests before they arrive

Fortunately, restaurant technology has taken some of the labor out of collecting customer data. For example, Swipely will automatically build a list of your top customers and their favorite items on your menu. Once you have a list of your top, say, 100 customers, look them up social networks (mainly Facebook & LinkedIn) to see if there's anything important to know about them: birthdays, anniversaries, spouse's name, job title, employer etc. Once that's done, you'll have a tweet-length profile that says something like, "John Appleseed is a Cardiologist at Mass Gen hospital. Wife is Jane. 15 visits in the last 180 days." 


2. Welcome regulars in a unique way the moment they enter

The best restaurants have a system—a mix a process & techology—for recognizing regulars. Some restaurants walk through the night's reservations in pre-shift meetings, others look up guests by name in a CRM when they arrive. Regardless of your system, let's be clear on the objective: make your regulars feel special throughout the entire visit. Remember: little things go a long way. Discreetly bumping a regular up the waitlist is a fantastic way to get them to visit more frequently. It makes business sense too, since regulars typically spend 3-5 times the average customer on a typical visit. Lastly, find a way to pass on the tweet-length profile to the waitstaff and FOH managers. The host stand has a challenging job as it stands, so equipping them and your management with the right tools can make life 10 times easier. (For reference, Wisely's real time CRM uses beacons to take the work out of recognizing regulars when they arrive.)




3. Lead off the service experience with a personal touch 

"Welcome back, John. May I bring you a glass of the usual Pinot Noir?" There are two important caveats to keep in mind. First, check the context of the guest: are they in a business meeting or looking especially serious? If so, a less-personal experience may be in order. Second, and this happens all the time, if you've never waited on the person before, break the ice by casually saying, "I've noticed you in here before. Pleasure to serve you this time. I'm John." Generally, a good rule of thumb is to match the guests level of interaction. The more the guest interacts, the more personal they're inviting you to be. Remember: It's the restaurant's job to break the ice with guests, not the other way around. Get over the fear of "maybe this person doesn't want to interact with me." Try, and if they don't, one attempt won't hurt anything.


4. Managers are the face of your restaurant

Spending time with guests is the most important activity of any manager, not expoing food, not running errands, and not doing office work. If your managers are caught in the busy trap, help them out by setting up systems to deal with the issues that happen most often. Management time is best spent listening to, understanding, and building relationships with guests. The top 10% of customers will typically account for 50% of total sales; managers need to know when one of those people is in the house. 


5. End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

Mentally, you should be collecting information that makes it easier to serve the guest next time they visit. Do they have plans for the night / weekend? What did they order? How did they enjoy it? If you learn something worth remembering, plug it back into your CRM. 


If you'd like to discuss if Wisely could work in your restaurant, we'd love to chat! 


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Wisely empowers restaurant groups to grow and sustain profitability by acquiring valuable new guests, converting them into regulars, and keeping them happy for life. Our software is easy-to-use and enhances productivity, so staff can focus on what really matters. For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at hello@getwisely.com.