Every Guest Leaves Happy

Posted by at 16 January, at 13 : 42 PM Print

Managing for success by Constantine Kolitsas

Ι once worked for a restaurant group that was so focused on customer satisfaction that every employee in its 40-plus units knew the acronym EGLH and could tell you with job-description-specificity what behaviors were expected of them to ensure that Every Guest Leaves Happy.  Customer satisfaction was not just a motto, but a living and breathing center-of-gravity for each restaurant’s internal culture.

Hosts were trained to sense unhappiness as well as how to convince departing guests to wait while they brought a manager over to understand the reasons for their unpleasant experience.  Servers were trained how to put out fires as well as how to validate guest frustrations by listening rather than by putting up excuses.  They were also held accountable to inform managers when there was the smallest chance that a guest was unhappy.  (Final responsibility for guest satisfaction was pinned on the manager, and rightly so.)

In my travels coaching and consulting restaurants, I spend quite a bit of time with managers training them how to turn unhappy guests into content customers.  Table touches are to be done with 100% of tables, I preach; preferably twice – once before a table gets their meal and again after they have been served.  The reason for that first table visit is to establish a rapport with the guests seated there. It doesn’t have to be an extended visit (while everyone wants to have a one-on-one interaction with the restaurant manager, very few want to spend more than a minute or two in conversation with them).  Rather, you just need enough time to give them the opportunity to like you (this is not difficult; as restaurant managers we’ve developed over the years the ability to draw strangers quickly into our orbit).  Now, if a steak is undercooked, the customer’s frustration level may only go to 2 on the Richter scale rather than 6 or 7.  Because the manager has stopped and charmed the guest before the incident, they have in the back of their minds a comfort level that the nice manager that stopped and spoke to them will fix it quickly.  After all, that 40-second conversation clearly established them as new best friends.

Of course, the need for Every Guest to Leave Happy is not simply because it’s nice, but because your business depends on it.  Happy customers keep your business alive and well.  And unhappy customers – particularly those with an axe to grind – can sink a restaurant faster than you can say “Leonardo DeCaprio”.

In the old days we said that word of mouth is the best advertising. Today that still holds true, except that word of mouth doesn’t always mean from mouth-to-ear.  In the Age of Social Media, a smartphone-amplified mouth can reach thousands of ears with the swipe of a finger.  And a picture’s thousand words can reach thousands and thousands of eyes.  Give that budding restaurant critic every reason to say “I love you” on social media – it translates to dollars in your bank account.  Conversely, an irate customer should be considered armed and dangerous to your business as they are only a click or two away from doing you some serious damage.


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