From the cleanliness of the table, to how quick their food arrives, to how perfectly cooked the steak is to their liking, the customer is assessing it all, and getting ready to tell their Twitter followers about it.
It is often helpful to think of every person that walks into your restaurant as not only a guest, but also your biggest critic. With easy access to social media, restaurant-goers can post details about their dining experience, reaching thousands of people’s Facebook and Yelp pages before they’ve even placed their order. From the cleanliness of the table, to how quick their food arrives, to how perfectly cooked the steak is to their liking, the customer is assessing it all, and getting ready to tell their Twitter followers about it. According to Toast, 65 percent of bad online reviews are posted within 24 hours of a poor dining experience, while 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as one from a friend or family member.
Last week we discussed several ways for restaurateurs to handle customer complaints, touching on the most common method: offering complimentary meals. Let’s dive deeper to how this can turn around a diner’s poor rating from one star to four.
What a Comp Meal Can Do for Business
While comping a patron’s meal should not be the immediate response when solving a situation with a guest, it can be effective in increasing the chances of them returning to your establishment. There can be several reasons a customer may have negative feedback: their meal is prepared incorrectly from what they ordered; too long of a wait time for their food to arrive; food is served cold or not cooked properly. Offering to comp their order could turn around their opinion of the eatery and save the restaurant from receiving a negative review.
Footing the bill isn’t always done as a means of pleasing a disgruntled guest. Sometimes management will present a dish on the house to make friends with fellow restaurant owners or food and beverage industry professionals. It is also a way to keep loyal customers coming back when you gift them a free dessert on their birthday or a drink to celebrate a job promotion.
When Comp Meals Are Not Effective
Complimentary meals have proved to be effective and can turn some not-so-happy visitors into regulars, but this method should be used sparingly as you are giving away free product. It is important to remember that you cannot please everyone, so don’t be too eager to win over difficult customers with a free dinner. Some situations where it’s suggested that you don’t comp is for picky or unsatisfied guests, or for minor complaints that can be handled in other ways.
Restaurant Systems Pro cautions when using this method, recommending that you don’t allow more than 3-4 percent of donations a month. Also, make sure that management is aware of each comped fare given out, not only to track where money is going, but also to avoid granting courtesy meals as your go-to to fixing a problem. Other ways to repair a patron’s evening can be awarding a discount on a future visit or a gift card, which will ensure their return so you can make it up to them.
Restaurant owners strive to make all aspects of their eatery run as smoothly as possible to please their diners. Unfortunately, mishaps do happen that can greatly affect the customer’s experience. It is important to review all your options before offering a complimentary meal as the solution, as you may find that you are giving away more than you bargained for.
About the Author: Courtney Ciandella has been the sole Marketing liason for Bielat Santore & Company since 2013. She is also the conductor behind the Who’s Who in the Restaurant Industry and Restaurant Tip of the Month series.