Diners today have no shortage of options when it comes to offering feedback. Traditional suggestion boxes, review aggregators like Yelp, social media profiles and even online ordering systems are just a handful of channels where diners can voice their praise, disappointments and burning questions.
For restaurant management teams, customer feedback is an invaluable asset, one that can be used to strengthen all facets of their operations. Unfortunately, too many restaurants simply read diners’ thoughts without ever responding to, or acting on, them.
Consider these four ways to acknowledge – and implement – diner feedback more effectively.
Establish response protocol
Restaurant managers and other key employees should create and enforce guidelines for handling diner feedback, whether your restaurant fields glowing diner emails or disgruntled tweets. These response plans should include specific instructions regarding the appropriate timeframe for responding to feedback, and when a response should be delivered offline (or via direct communication, versus publicly on Facebook). Build processes for how to offer incentives after receiving certain types of feedback, and how to notify diners when you’ve made changes based on their thoughts (for example, bringing back a discontinued menu item or adding more gluten-free options to the menu).
Align feedback with business planning
Someone on staff should be responsible for reviewing diner feedback as it comes in, but restaurant management should also refer back to this feedback when putting together quarterly or annual business plans. Each month or quarter, compile a report that details diner feedback trends across relevant online and in-person channels. Use these findings to inform parts of your restaurant’s strategy going forward, including interior redesigns, customer technology investments, marketing campaigns and menu specials.
Consider a monitoring tool
For larger restaurant chains with multiple locations, a brand monitoring tool is an effective way to stay on top of what diners are saying in real time. These solutions sort through all the online chatter involving your restaurant, from social media channels to forums, to measure how positively or negatively customers perceive your brand. Monitoring technology makes it easier to detect feedback patterns – for instance, a food quality issue that’s isolated to one location – and identify complaints or questions that demand immediate attention.
Tune in to competitors’ reviews
Trumping the competition can be a key motivation for acting on diner feedback. Aside from keeping an eye on what diners say about your restaurant, make it a point to occasionally check what they’re saying about your direct competitors. A regular sweep of competitors’ Twitter feeds or online profiles could yield useful insight that helps your restaurant proactively tweak certain processes or add new services.