When running a small business, one of the most important things to focus on is customer experience and satisfaction. If your customers have a good experience it will enhance your business reputation and build loyalty.
So, as a business owner, reviewing and improving the experience for your customers is one of the biggest keys to success. And the best way to do this is to regularly gather feedback for your cafe or restaurant and learn from what your customers have to say.
Here are five ways you can collect that sort of info:
Create a customer survey
One the simplest and most effective ways to get feedback for your cafe or restaurant is through customer surveys. Using direct, easy-to-answer questions you can get straight to the point, learn what your customers enjoy or dislike, and find ways to improve.
Remember to also gather data about the demographics of your patrons (such as their gender, location, whether they visit with their family etc.), as this is invaluable information about your customer base and provides context to their survey answers. If you collect a means of keeping in touch with your customers (typically, email addresses), be sure to say how you plan to contact them and provide a way for people to opt in. You can then create a digital survey and distribute it using an online platform like SmartSurvey or SurveyMonkey.
If you don’t have a database of customer contact details, you can create and print out paper surveys instead. Make your surveys short and easy to complete — you’re asking your customers to do you a favour. Use simple language and a combination of either true/false, multiple choice or short answer questions.
Some example questions you could ask in your surveys:
- How many times do you visit our café/restaurant per week/month/year?
- How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend?
- How would you rate our food? (On a scale of 1-10)
- How would you rate the service? (On a scale of 1-10)
- What’s your favourite item on the menu?
- Is there anything you think we could improve on?
Talk to your staff
Your employees are on the frontline of your business and interact with your customers every day. They can therefore provide great insight, and suggest improvements you might otherwise not think of. Your team will know what's working and what isn't in your café or restaurant, so be sure to talk to them.
Find out what they've heard from customers and listen to their opinions on how things could be improved. You can gather this feedback through weekly staff meetings, a suggestions box, or employee survey — anonymous feedback can often be more honest.
Make the most of social media
You may already be using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok and have built up a following. That's great and you'll no doubt have seen how useful social media is for customer feedback! If not, keep reading - find out why you should get involved.
Whether you’re a coffee shop, a sandwich bar, a pub or a fine-dining restaurant, creating social media profiles is a good idea. You can then start taking advantage of what these platforms can do for your business. You don’t need to be on every social media channel out there, so pick and choose what’s best for you. An easy way to do this is to see what platforms your local competition features on — you can create your own account and then follow similar profiles to yours (as well as their followers!). Instagram is especially popular with hospitality businesses, as you can showcase your food, drink and venue through photos and videos.
Be proactive by engaging with your followers and posting regular updates, and you'll soon start to see how much customer engagement and brand awareness social media can generate.
Social media tips and tricks:
- Post regular updates about offers, events and new menu items.
- Ask questions! It’s such a simple thing, but many fail to do it. You can continuously gather feedback just by asking what people think. Be specific and keep it short and sweet.
- Reply to comments and interact with your followers. Don't simply post updates — thank people for their feedback, and respond to any questions (you can use any questions to inspire your future posts as well).
- Post links to surveys and promote your other methods for gathering feedback.
Share customer photos and videos to your Stories on Instagram — this will simultaneously make them feel good and make you look popular.
Suggestions box or comments book
An easier, but perhaps less effective, way for gathering feedback is with a suggestions box or comments book, where customers can discreetly submit their thoughts.
Make sure the box or book is in a convenient place where it’s easy for customers to see, with a clear invitation for them to provide feedback — whether good or bad. It sounds obvious, but also make sure that the box or book is in a space where they have room to write, and that there are plenty of pens and feedback cards.
Your staff can prompt customers for feedback as they serve them, and tell them how grateful you are for any comments, complaints or questions.
Make sure you read all the feedback you receive - positive feedback is great as it reinforces what you are doing right, but negative feedback that constructively critiques your business can be even more useful as it highlights where you can improve.
People love freebies, offers and discounts! You can encourage customer feedback by offering meal deal codes, free drink tokens or discount vouchers. Boost your custom by picking quieter days of the week for when these offers are valid and you have a win-win situation.
So there you have it: five ways to gather feedback for your cafe or restaurant, which you can then use to improve your service and customer experience. Not all of the above methods will be suited to every business, but as long as you are proactive in seeking your customers' opinions regularly, your business will start to reap the rewards.