I wrote this list because over the years I've found myself repeating bits of this mantra to my staff, over and over again. I think it's all relevant today.
1. Going to a restaurant should make the customer feel special.
Restored. This, without contest, is by far the most important thing to remember.
2. A customer should not have to remind you of personal preferences.
For example: If a customer has been more than once in the past year, and each time they mentioned they were allergic to shellfish, this should be remembered.
3. A restaurant should be flexible and cater for all of its guests.
Take dietary requests with grace and menu choices with a smile. If someone wants a tasting menu and the others a la carte, of course that will be no problem. Nobody goes to a restaurant to obey petty little menu rules from an uptight cook and be ordered around like a child at school by an overzealous restaurant manager.
4. Give a little love.
A great example is when my grandmother used to cut the crusts off sandwiches when I was a child, because she knew I liked it like that. No crusts just made the sandwich a little bit more special, and I loved my grandmother all the more for it. If you apply that philosophy to every dish and bit of service in some way, the love will transfer to your guests.
5. Kill problems with kindness.
You will always get the odd problem customers. Deal with all problems with humility, generosity and kindness. It is amazing how a bad experience dealt with calmly and generously can turn a furious customer into your most faithful regular and ambassador.
6. Look after your regulars.
Returning customers are 5x more valuable than new customers, and worth 5x more effort to keep happy than constantly investing in finding new customers. You’ve already won them over, now it’s your job to reconfirm their affections. Get this right, and every time they visit they will act as your best ambassador.
7. Be careful of the ‘them and us’ attitude.
Visiting a restaurant is not like going to a show. At a show, or a football match, or a concert, you are part of the audience, watching a performance. Nothing more. You buy your ticket, you’re herded in, you patiently wait, you watch the show, you leave.
At a restaurant, it is not them and us. We are not performers, we are friends. The customer is a fundamental part of the experience, and the whole time there should be constantly organically adapting to reflect that.
8. Make your booking process as friendly and convenient as possible.The moment a customer makes the decision to book a table, picks up the phone or books online, you have become their servant. Make the process as easy and hassle free as possible, just as if you were their personal PA.
Work as hard as you can to allow for your guests booking late, if that’s what they sometimes do. Late cancellations should be taken with good grace. Life is like that, we can’t always predict. A good restaurant will understand that life doesn’t always run smoothly, and your customers will love you for that.
9. Be very careful with heavy-handed rules.
Same with regulations, taking deposits, giving table time limits, terms and conditions. The experience of going to a restaurant begins far earlier than when they sit down at the table, and the worst possible thing to do is put guests in a bad frame of mind before they’ve even arrived. Make them love you before they've arrived. Half the job is done.
10. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Remember we are just chefs, waiters and customers, We are not prophets and disciples. This is not medicine or politics. We are simply feeding appetites and making people comfortable. And thank God for that.