6 Common Restaurant Customer Service Mistakes

Executing the basics well in restaurant customer service will always make a positive impact on your bottom line. These six mistakes may seem obvious but think about this, the best athletes in the world are the best in the world, because they practice the basics more than anybody else…

Let’s identify these common mistakes and then provide some simple and fast solutions!

1) Not Greeting Properly

This is by far the most common service mistake that impacts revenue and customer satisfaction.

Train your staff to take a moment and sincerely greet people coming into your restaurant just like they’re a guest who’s arriving at your house for dinner. Let’s say you’re welcoming someone new to your home. You give them a warm hug and show them around if they’ve never been there before. You may also offer them drinks and snacks to make their visit comfortable and memorable.

Okay. I know you’re not going to have someone hug guests, but are they warmly welcomed with eye contact, passion, and heartfelt warmth? Or do they get a mumbled “Welcome to XYZ Restaurant” from a stressed out staff member who’s looking at the floor?

These are guests in your home who expected to pay you their hard-earned money after the meal. Make sure they want to open their wallets and don’t feel that they have to.

Smiling doesn’t cost you anything and yet the return on investment is enormous.

2) Not Being Able to Make Recommendations

Recently, we published an article about servers not being mechanical order takers but well trained salespeople. Read “Everybody is on the Restaurant Marketing Team” for more on the topic.

All of your staff are salespeople, and every staff member is on the marketing team. Therefore, all of your staff must know the products they are marketing and selling. This ensures that the guests will have the best experience possible.

It’s irritating and affects your bottom line when servers can’t properly explain a dish, don’t know what’s in it, and feel uncertain making recommendations for food, wine, or beer.

A confident staff person who knows the menu well and engages customers with empathy and a light-hearted attitude can be the sole reason customers enjoy their experience and return.

3) Making Substitutions Difficult

Here is an amazing quote from Ghandi:

Ghandi Service Quote - The Restaurant Boss

We are here to serve our guests and, remember, Service is one of my 5 Foundations to a Lifetime of Restaurant Success.

Sure, every business in all industries will have customers who complain no matter the circumstances. Most people, though, will appreciate your “Going the Extra Mile” attitude. Service isn’t giving them what you want, it’s giving them what they want without making them feel ashamed for a special request.

4) Interrupting an Experience Rather Than Creating One

OMG! This is where I lose it. Now what if Ghandi was actually dining in your restaurant wanting to be in a deep conversation with someone, and you kept bugging him for water every few minutes or asking if everything was okay? Your servers often think they are doing a great by ensuring their glass of water is always full, but he’d lose his train of thought and become frustrated.

Your guests aren’t just there for food but a deeper type of experience. Maybe it’s a budding business deal or a couple on a first date. Ensure that the service staff recognizes this and paces the service around the experience. Also make sure the staff is paying attention to social cues and not just walking up to a table mid-sentence to ask if the customer is ready to order.

My service instructor at Johnson & Wales University taught us that a great server enhances an experience and never interrupts one. Enhance. Don’t interrupt.

Put this concept to work immediately by downloading the 5 Steps to Raving Fans Service Guide.

5) Taking Too Long to Close out the Check

Customers may linger over a meal, but when they’re finished they want the check quickly so they can pay and leave. In a well-produced movie, once the bad guys are caught or the hero and heroine fall in love then the movie is over and the credits roll. Dragging out the last scene leads to bad reviews.

The same holds true for the restaurant business so be sure the check out process is fast and efficient.  This will also impact the size of your servers tip. A vast majority of customers do not know what they are going to leave as a tip until the bill comes. If they are left waiting for the bill and asking for it multiple times then the tip will diminish, and so will the chances that they will return to dine.

6) Not Properly Inviting Customers Back

Just like the first greeting sets a tone, the last contact isn’t only good-bye but an invitation to return. Most restaurants make a major service mistake by NOT inviting guests back.  Your customers may not expect an invite since so few restaurants do it well. They’ve gotten used to thoughtless farewells. So if you invite them back, they’re going to notice.  The usual “we look forward to seeing you again soon” is NOT an invitation. It is a scripted and lazy good bye at best.

When inviting a gust back is a genuine expression of gratitude and sincerity it sounds more like this: “Thank you, folks. It has been such a privilege of taking care of you this evening. I am so glad we were able to exceed your expectations this evening.  My name is Susie and I greatly look forward to seeing you again soon.”

Here’s another way to invite that will leave a lasting impression. “Here is my personal business card, please be sure to ask for me when making your next reservation. A website is on the back where you can either email our owner or post a comment about your experience. Once again, I want you to know how honored I am, as well as the entire team, that you chose to dine with us this evening.”

If you’re a higher ticket, fine dining establishment then ALWAYS send your guests home with something to remember you like a chocolate for later in the evening, a recipe, or some granola for breakfast the next day.

This is the service you would give guests visiting in your home, so why not do it for guests who actually paying to be in your home?



Subscribe to my channel for more free videos!


Follow me to get daily updates and happenings!


Its just kind of fun to tweet!


Let’s share some beautiful pictures!


There is a lot of cool stuff happening over here!


Please leave your comments or questions below, I promise to respond to every one personally!

Font Resize