Customers come in all stripes, and your challenge as a restaurant is to figure out how to accommodate them all comfortably, from children to handicapped individuals to large groups. While one size fits all service might seem easier at first, you and your customers will both be happier if you have policies, systems, and equipment in place ready to accommodate every customer’s different needs.
Tip #1: Making Your Restaurant Handicap-Accessible
Even if you operate in a tight space, you want to make your restaurant as welcoming to those with disabilities as possible. A comfortable customer will appreciate it and want to return, and their caretakers and family will as well! Start from the moment a customer drives up to your establishment’s door. Make sure your handicap parking spots are as close as possible to the door, and consider eliminating unnecessary obstacles such as steep stairs and installing a wheelchair ramp if possible. In the hostess area, consider using less tall hostess stands to make it easier for those in wheelchairs to speak with the hostess. Additionally, have at least one table with room for a wheelchair, and you can also organize the hostess waiting area so there is a place to sit and perhaps a nook to wheel a wheelchair into during the wait.
Tip #2: Families with Children
Families with little ones can be hard to accommodate, but there are plenty of ways to limit the space problems and calm rambunctious children. If you have room, seat families at tables with extra seats so children have room to color and play and are not squirming in one seat the whole time, prompting them to want to run around the restaurant. Speaking of coloring, make sure to provide kiddies with something to do while they wait for their kids menu items, and offer a healthy selection of meals that are easily digestible, tasty, and not too scary looking for kids.
Tip #3: Handle Problems Swiftly and Professionally
A customer complaint is a challenge for you as a restaurant. Stay calm, even if a staff member has made a mistake, and fix the problem as the manager or owner with professionalism as soon as possible. Do not criticize your staff members in front of customers or complain about them to customers. Your establishment should give customers the impression that you are a well-oiled machine that has a system for dealing with issues and making sure the customer is always right.
Tip #4: Special Requests
Although you offer an awesome menu with plenty of options, customers may sometimes ask for something to be specially made. The customer may have dietary restrictions or a health issue, so be prepared to handle special requests. Make sure your cooking staff is proficient at not only at whipping up your standard menu items but also at innovating. Additionally, a customer may ask to be seated in a particular spot so train your staff to be prepared to listen carefully and be prepared answer such requests without missing a beat.
Tip #5: Difficult Customers
Try as you might, you will still run into the occasional difficult customer. Such situations must be handled in a way that least disturbs your other customers. As owner or manager, you are responsible for shielding your staff from a troublesome customer. Explain the problematic situation to the customer professionally and in as friendly a manner as possible, preferably in a semi-private part of the restaurant. Hopefully you can allay the customer’s concerns, but if not, still encourage and commend your staff afterwards to remind them that you are still a team despite a difficult situation.
Accommodating all customers is a game of juggling many different needs and requests, but preparation can make the unexpected situations easier!
Challenge: Check your restaurant this week for the best place to put a table that could best accommodate a wheelchair, and set up that area as your handicap-accessible spot.