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Good, bad and ugly: Feedback is everything when running a café or restaurant

Monday, 19 August 2013 | By Trevor Jenkins

When was the last time you did a full audit of your venue?

 

I am not talking about a financial audit, where you’re stressing over the dollars and where they’ve gone; I’m talking about an entire venue audit, starting from everything you see, hear, and feel at the front door all the way across the floor, through the kitchen, to the back door.

 

I believe this is something every café and restaurant should do at least twice a year. The main reason is to get that valuable (but sometimes hard to hear) feedback that will enable you to grow as a business. There are many venues out there that think they’re doing a great job, but they’ve just not hit the mark when it comes to the most important part of the business: The customer experience.

 

There are many ways that an audit can be conducted, below are the two main styles that I have had much success with in the past:

 

The mystery shopper

 

Think of your mystery shopper as a secret agent doing reconnaissance. The staff will be unaware of their presence in the venue and your mystery shopper will be coming with a plan of attack. Some items on the list for the audit include:

  • First impressions of the venue
  • Did staff greet guests as they entered?
  • Are staff presentable and friendly?
  • Is the venue unpleasantly noisy?
  • How does the venue smell?
  • What is the menu and beverage list like? And so on.

 

I’ve found this method to be an effective tool in the past and it’s best to be conducted over a couple of different services – breakfast, lunch, dinner – to be able to get a real picture of the venue’s overall performance.

 

It’s very important that the information gained from a mystery shopper exercise be taken with an open mind, as the comments that come back are sometimes quite difficult to hear. The only downside to the mystery shopper method is that they can only see what is happening front of house – not how your venue machine works on the inside.

 

The open book audit

 

The open book auditing method is also very effective; the main difference with this method is that the staff know who the auditor is. There are many benefits to this style of audit as it is extremely thorough, having access to both front and back of house. The open book method will be able to uncover a great number of aspects of the business that may need addressing, including the financial side of things.

 

In these economic times, it is absolutely imperative that you, as a business owner, know everything about your business, including what the customer has to say about your business.

 

I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “the customer is always right”, and while this may be hard to swallow sometimes, ultimately without the customers, you have nothing. They pay the rent, the staff costs and the rest of the very long list of expenses.

 

So, if there is one thing that you remember from reading this today, it should be that feedback is an integral part of running a successful café or restaurant. Please don’t put your head in the sand! Open your eyes and ears and you will be able to grow and improve your bottom line with incredible ease.

 

Feedback is everything!