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At Your Restaurant,

What Does Quality Mean?

You’re a restaurant person.  What do you think Quality means?

Most restaurant owners and managers think customers are talking

about the quality of the food.  But that’s only part of the story.  You’re tried to create a ‘quality restaurant experience’ because you want your customers to like it – and come back.  But here’s where you might be wrong.

In our significant customer satisfaction research about customer return and recommend rate we found that customers are concerned with four distinct dimensions of ‘Quality’.  We also know that there are ten domains of satisfaction that restaurant owners and managers must pay attention to – meaning nine others besides ‘Quality’ that have an effect on whether or not customers will come back or recommend you to others. 

As mentioned, there are four dimensions, or sub-constructs of the concept of Quality according to your customers:


Quality means getting it right the first time

That means getting the order correct, cooking it the way the customer wants, presenting it as represented on your menu.  It might be good, but if it is different than what the customer ordered or what they are expecting – you are going to lost points in the mind of the customer – and so their impression of the complete restaurant experience will be diminished.  It is amazing with the sheer number of orders in some restaurants that there aren’t more mistakes, but then again – some restaurants get it right the first time – every time.  They are obviously paying attention to this kind of detail.  

Our research (more than 2million respondents in our customer satisfaction database) says that customers care about this.  No surprise really.

Quality means ‘compared to the best they have had or know about’. 

There are many adjectives to describe what quality means- especially for food – freshest, aged, spiciest, perfectly balanced, not too sweet etc., etc..

Did you ever think about why some customers are satisfied with the quality of something while others might not be so much?  The idea of benchmarking figures heavily when it comes to customer satisfaction. 


When customers think about the best steak, the best strawberry cheesecake, or the best Tequila sunrise they have ever had – they have either an image of what they have personally experienced or something that they have heard about from others.  While I have searched far and wide for an authentically prepared Eggs Benedict with real Hollandaise Sauce the way I used to get it at Le Meridien Hotel in Coronado California, you can tell me yours is good, but I have in fact – tasted better.


Now it’s understood that you can’t bat 1000 with every menu item being the best your customers have ever tasted, but it is something to shoot for.  If you can’t deliver a particular menu item at least an ‘8’ on a 1-10 scale then should it really be on there?  Sure you might be getting away with what you are serving, and no one is sending it back, but you could be missing an opportunity to really impress here.


It’s important that you understand that if you are going to offer Cheeseburgers, yours will be compared with every other Cheeseburger your customers have ever eaten.  This is how customers relate to the quality of your food.  Think about that a little bit.


Another dimension of Quality in the mind of your customers is what we call: ‘General Systems Knowledge’. 


What that means is do your wait staff have all the information such as : What’ s on special?  Are you out of Oysters?  Can I switch side orders?  Does it come with Tortillas?  Etc.  It is particularly frustrating for customers, we have found from our research, that if the wait person has to go ask somebody and disappears in the middle of the ordering process that it makes them appear decidedly unprofessional. 


How hard is it to prep the staff beforehand so they are prepared to answer every question a customer might have- or even dare we say – offer suggestions “We have fresh caught Albacore Steaks tonight- just off the boat”  or “May I suggest the Pinto Grigio with your first course? Served chilled of course”.  The customer has made the decision to come into your establishment, has decided to spend their money with you because you attracted them in somehow – (hopefully from a recommendation from one of their friends) and now you are going to blow it coming out of the gate by screwing up the ordering process – because your waiter doesn’t know??   In the customer’s eyes, you will lose points for this for sure.


The Fourth dimension of Quality, in the minds of customers is what we call:  ‘Best Practices’.

You as the Restaurant are known (or not) for applying best practices.  What does this mean?  Care and presentation of delicate seafood, how to present a bottle of wine and open it for a customer, How to place the check on the table and what to say as you leave it, how to prep the table and silverware for particular hot dishes, food requiring special cutlery, how to welcome guests to their table, how to deal with a spilled glass of water or wine, what to offer when customers complain, how to pull the chair out for guests etc.  


It could also be things like using point of sale systems, ways to remember customer’s birthdays or even how to make a Caesar’s salad from raw ingredients at the customer’s table. 

There is best way in the industry for what you do and how you do it.  Learn what it is and match it or do better. Customers take notice when what you do and how you do it is better than what they have experienced elsewhere.  When you distinguish yourself by demonstrating best practices you hurt your competition and customers will rate you positively.  

Since Quality is one of the Ten Dimensions Of Excellence, as revealed by our research and one of the ten dimensions that influences Customer Return and Recommend rate – your most important business metric.   Our research reveals the complete Science Of Customer Satisfaction - and what you should be doing that can dramatically increase your return and recommend rate - and thereby your profits! 


Interested in the other nine dimensions and their sub-constructs?  Get The Book:  Becoming Excellent – Applying The Ten Values Of Excellence To Your Organization, By Bart Allen Berry. 


Learn more about how to audit your own operations to measure and predict your current customer return and recommend rate and how to increase it and become ‘known as the best!’

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It's about more than the quality of the food..

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