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What restaurant owners need to know about working with the public

By Stephanie Lowndes on April 1st, 2022

Celebrations, reunions, first dates – restaurants are where memories are made and relationships are born. As a restaurant owner, it’s your responsibility to facilitate and enhance those special moments.

But, that’s much easier said than done and working directly with the public can be a challenge. To help you out, we’ve compiled all the must-knows for restaurant owners when it comes to working with the public.

  1. Creating an inviting environment
  2. Offering and maintaining amenities
  3. Dealing with complaints
  4. Restaurant insurance

Creating an inviting environment

The most important thing for any restaurant, the food aside, is the atmosphere. The type of restaurant you run and the mood you’re looking to create will inform the type of atmosphere you’ll be aiming for, but there are some key steps to follow no matter what your goal is.

First up, lighting. This’ll likely be the first thing a customer notices, perhaps before they’ve even walked through the door, meaning it’s your first way of creating an impression and setting the mood. If you’re going for a more casual feel, then brighter lights are the way to go. However, if you’re looking to set a more intimate or sensual mood, dim the lights, break out the candles and watch as your restaurant takes on a more cosy and personal feel.

Many restaurants have two “pre-set” lighting levels, allowing them to switch between a brighter and more casual feel during the day, and dimming things to create a more intimate atmosphere in the evening.

Beyond the lighting, the decor of your restaurant has a huge impact on the atmosphere. Like with the lighting, brighter and bolder colours usually evoke a more casual atmosphere, whereas more muted tones will make things feel more intimate. However, the biggest impact on your decor will come from the theme of your restaurant. If your restaurant is themed around a certain cuisine or location, decorating it to fit that style makes the most sense. If you’re looking to highlight the local area, maybe invest in some works from local artists to hang on the walls. Above all, you’ll just want to make sure everything looks clean and well-maintained.

Similarly, the furniture you choose can also set the mood and dictate the atmosphere. Big tables with lots of seats will imply big groups or family dining, whereas smaller tables or booths hint at a more intimate date situation.

It’s not all about the visuals, though, as sound is just as, if not more important. No one enjoys awkward silences, so ensuring there’s always some kind of buzz in your restaurant is key. Music is a great way to create an inviting atmosphere, but what you pick and how loud you play it will make or break things. As with the decor, this all comes down to the theme of the restaurant and what fits best. Be careful with the volume, too. You don’t want to drown out your guest’s conversations!

Likewise, you don’t want the intended atmosphere to be drowned out by the clanging of cutlery on plates or chairs shuffling around. Try to cut down on these background noises with rugs and upholstered furniture, along with appropriate sound-proofing on the ceilings to drown out the echo.

Offering and maintaining amenities

The restaurant industry is a particularly competitive one, meaning you’ll have to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd and above your competitors. A common piece of advice with all businesses is to establish a clear unique selling point (USP) and make sure it’s at the forefront of your business to attract potential customers and set you apart from the rest. The same holds true for a restaurant, where your USP may be a particular cuisine, a certain popular dish or a unique atmosphere which keeps customers coming back.

One key way to maintain interest in your restaurant is with a rotating, or frequently updating menu. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean changing the entire menu every time, as that’s a recipe for confusion and disaster. Instead, consider a set of specials which change regularly, or limited time tweaks to some dishes to peak the interest of your regular customers.

You could use these menu changes as a reason to run regular special events, where you invite customers to try samples of new dishes. You may also consider branching out into hosting live music, stand-up comedians, or quiz nights. By turning your restaurant, you’re giving people a reason to visit regularly and build up a relationship with your brand.

When it comes to building relationships with customers, though, there’s arguably no more reliable way than with a loyalty programme. People love collecting, and by offering free meals, discounts or other rewards for repeat patronage of your business, you can take advantage of this. Encouraging customers to sign up for a loyalty programme also gives you the chance to gather information, such as contact details and birth dates, which will give you future personalised marketing opportunities.

Dealing with complaints

Nothing can ever be perfect and, inevitably, at some point, you will receive complaints. But negative feedback doesn’t have to be a negative thing. How you respond to complaints is key, and in many cases can lead to a successful outcome.

It’s become a cliche, but the saying “the customer’s always right” still holds true, to an extent. While, depending on the situation, a customer may or may not be in the right when making a complaint, by treating them with politeness and respect as though they are, you’ll diffuse the majority of heated situations, or cut them off before they get out of hand. Remain calm and collected, and consider carefully why the customer’s complaining and what you can do to help. Try to empathise with what they’re saying and think about how you would want the problem to be dealt with.

If you can’t offer a solution to the customer’s problem, you should always try to offer a make-good as an alternative. For example, if a customer’s meal has been overcooked, offer a discount or free drinks to alleviate the inconvenience. While this may seem like a financial loss in the short term, by leaving the customer with a positive impression of you and your restaurant, you may earn their repeat business, or at the very least ensure they won’t leave a bad review. Dealing with complaints is a challenge most businesses will face, but with the right attitude they can be handled professionally.

Restaurant insurance

Running a business is risky, especially a public-facing one like a restaurant. However, by investing in the right insurance you can mitigate that risk and remove stress from the menu. By investing in a specialist restaurant insurance plan, you can be sure you’re protected against the most common risks of running a restaurant.

If you decide against a bespoke insurance plan, here are a few covers you should make sure are included in your policy:

  • Public liability insurance: This keeps you financially protected if a claim is made against you or your business by a member of the public who has been injured on your business premises.
  • Employers liability insurance: This is a legal requirement if you hire staff and covers you in the event that one of your employees suffers injury or illness as a result of their work for your business.
  • Business interruption insurance: This covers you if your business has to close for a period of time, such as for repairs after a fire, flood or extreme weather (excluding forced closure due to a pandemic, or other event which forces the closure of multiple businesses in the area).
  • Business contents insurance: This will cover the cost of any stock, equipment, or anything else kept within your business premises that gets damaged, lost or stolen.

If you want to invest in a comprehensive insurance plan, or renew your existing policy, make sure you get the best deal and compare quotes online today. Are you starting a new venture? Let us assist you in understanding the essential business insurance requirements for your industry.

Stephanie Lowndes

Stephanie is a digital marketing masters graduate with extensive customer service experience gained in the retail and hospitality sectors. Stephanie is currently a marketing executive at Brisco Business.

All articles by Stephanie Lowndes

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