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Restaurant Customer Service: Ideas for Delighting Your Guests

Restaurant Customer Service: Ideas for Delighting Your Guests

A restaurant experience is as much about the customer service as it is about the food. You could serve the finest dishes, but if the service doesn’t match, you’re likely to receive negative reviews, and you definitely won’t build up a loyal customer base. 

To help you on your mission of delighting your guests, we’ve put together a list of restaurant customer service suggestions that’ll have your guests book their next table straight away. 

In this article we’ll focus on:

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Gauge guest expectations

A beige banner with an illustration of two people sat at a table eating

The style of service you offer your guests will differ depending on the type of restaurant you operate, however, no matter what your business is, all customers should be treated with respect and if they encounter any problems, these will be dealt with quickly, tactfully, and helpfully.

If your customers are paying a premium, it’s important to consider how you and your restaurant staff can deliver that premium experience and also to make sure customers know what to expect. 

Portland, a Michelin-starred Lightspeed customer, use their website homepage to set expectations before guests book a table:

“We opened Portland in January 2015 and gained a Michelin star later that year which we are very proud to have retained ever since.

We try to offer the best contemporary example of fine dining in London – this doesn’t mean cloches and tablecloths (we don’t own a single one of either!)  but the finest produce we can find cooked with precision and a high level of technique. Our team is led by Executive Chef Chris Bassett who has been with us for several years and his team in the kitchen is led by our Head Chef Angelica Hope.

Wine has always been central to what we do – as well as our monthly-changing wine list we have a unique Single Bottle List featuring some of the world’s finest wines. Alexandra Suter, our head of beverage, is always on the hunt for new brilliant wines and is just as excited by a superb-value house red as she is by a Grand Cru burgundy.

On the floor our team is led by Kat Adams our GM who is always keen to hear about anything she can do to make your visit that bit special – if it’s a birthday, anniversary or you just want to have a negroni waiting for you when you get here, please let us know.”

Portland does a fantastic job of highlighting that while they’re a Michelin-starred restaurant, their approach is more relaxed than you might expect. They also mention the importance of making every guest feel special, so customers will be expecting that star treatment. 

Consider using your digital platforms–be it your website, Instagram page, or TikTok account–to make it clear to customers what they can expect from your restaurant. 

Train staff on great customer service

To deliver quality customer service, you need to train restaurant staff to treat guests with professionalism.

There’s a certain etiquette for waiting tables and managing customers. Even if the customer isn’t aware of these ‘rules’, abiding by them serves to make the customer feel welcome, comfortable, and not intruded upon.

Proper restaurant etiquette often comes down to common decency and respect, like treating customers warmly and being attentive, not intrusive. But it’s important that they’re aware of the following rules of proper restaurant etiquette, for example not clearing plates until everyone has finished, using your electronic point of sale to see if anything is out of stock before taking an order, and never blaming a mistake on a colleague, the chef, or how busy you are.

Set yourself apart

When there’s so much choice of where to eat out, you’ve got to consider what sets your restaurant apart from the rest. It’s the small details in customer service that guests remember and will return for, whether that’s offering oat milk at no extra charge, or giving out free nibbles while customers wait for a table.

Ramen restaurant and Lightspeed customer Tonkotsu saw how popular their chilli oil was, and made it available for customers to buy in jars and enjoy at home. This adds value to the customer’s experience and also shows that Tonkotsu listens to their customers.

It could also be something as simple as offering a childrens’ menu that’s well-considered. Granger and Co lead by example with their offering that features smaller, tweaked versions of the adult menu. Making kids’ menus available makes your restaurant more welcoming to families.

It’s worth noting that the customer experience starts well before a guest even sets foot into your establishment, and the brand story itself can be a way to delight your guests. 

Redemption Roasters is the world’s first prison-based coffee company. They work alongside ex-offenders on their five-part ‘Redemption model’ which involves teaching practical skills ex-offenders need to work in the coffee industry and beyond. Graduates then have the opportunity to work in Redemption Roasters coffee shops across London.

The positive social impact Redemption Roasters has–and the way they communicate their story–sets them apart from other coffee shops, and this in itself is a way to delight customers.

It’s a great idea to visit a competitor restaurant, and closely observe their customer service. Are they missing something? Are they doing something that you can do better? Always inform part of your customer service by what your competitors are or aren’t doing. But remember, be inspired, but don’t copy. 

Gather guest data

Modern restaurant tech allows us to know our customers better than ever before. With Lightspeed Advanced Insights, you can gather actionable data about your customers and your menu items:

Examples of how you can utilise Lightspeed Advanced Insights include:

  • Get a detailed breakdown of your menu performance and feature your best dishes more prominently.
  • Track how often customers are coming back, how much they spend and which menu items they order most.

With Lightspeed Advanced Insights, a distinct ‘guest profile’ is generated for each specific identifier, and transactions associated with that profile are collected. This data gives you information that is used for both the guest profile and magic menu quadrant of Advanced Insights. The guest profile will show preferences specific to individual guests, while the magic menu quadrant shows collective data, such as the retention rate of each menu item.

Streamline orders and payments

A pink banner with an illustration of a a payment terminal with someone paying using their phone

When it comes to customer service, so much of it relies on the human element. But, the right technology–like Lightspeed Restaurant–gives your guests the freedom to personalise their dining experience. 

For example, mobile order and pay technology lets guests order from your menu by simply scanning a QR code.

Guests select items from your menu, and pay right from their phone, without staff even having to get involved. Their orders then get sent to the kitchen.

This solution may not be entirely appropriate for restaurants at the higher end, where attentive table service is crucial to the customer experience. But, for fast-casual restaurants, bars, or hotels offering room service, it’s a powerful tool.

Lightspeed customer Staycity improves their speed of service with QR code ordering: “At our Disneyland Paris location, click and collect is a big focus. We’re putting QR codes on the shuttle bus so you can order your food on the way back from the park and it’ll be ready when you arrive back at your Staycity hotel.” Simon Lee, Head of Food and Beverages explained.

With a platform like Lightspeed Order Anywhere, you can integrate payments software into the platform for faster customer checkout, and let guests create their own profiles with saved payment preferences for more personalised service.

Here are more benefits Lightspeed Order Anywhere for restaurants and bars:

  • Customers can order and pay from their tables. This lightens your waitstaff’s workload, freeing them up to attend to the finer points of the customer experience.
  • There’s no need for guests to attract a waitstaff’s attention to add to or modify their orders, making service quicker and more fluid.
  • Restaurants and bars can offer their own click-and-collect service without having to pay third-party fees.
  • Forecast labour and inventory needs with reports on past, present, and future orders
  • Eliminate crowds and queues at the bar or counter area, making service run smoother.
  • Easy ordering could result in a larger ticket size.
  • Menu changes can be made quickly and easily from the Order Anywhere backend and will be reflected on the customer-facing app within minutes.
  • Integrate Lightspeed Payments to unify orders and payments.
  • Guests can create their own profile with contact information and preferred payments methods for faster checkout and more personalised service.

Deal with difficult customers gracefully

Dealing with difficult customers is a bit like responding to a bad review–how you handle it makes all the difference. Matching a customer’s anger will do nothing to quell their concerns or resurrect their impression of your restaurant. It’s important not to get emotional when dealing with customers, but instead, try to address their issues as much as possible and offer some kind of reconciliation. A complaint well dealt with can actually be an asset to your business. 

Implement environmentally friendly initiatives 

A grey banner with an illustration of a bowl shaped like the earth with two people sat at a table within the bowl

In research conducted by Lightspeed in November 2023, it was revealed that over 70% of diners surveyed consider themselves environmentally conscious. This heightened awareness is driving a change in consumer behaviour, with 36% of Britons actively seeking restaurants that have robust sustainability initiatives in place.

Of those who proactively seek planet-friendly restaurants, over a quarter (26%) stated that they would stop visiting a restaurant if they discovered it was not run sustainably, showing that for many diners, the commitment to sustainability is not just a preference but a principle. 

Implementing environmentally friendly initiatives will not only make your restaurant a better business, but it will delight your customers. 

There are a number of ways that restaurants can work to become more sustainable, and Lightspeed customer Silo is at the forefront of this. What started out as a challenge to run a pop-up without a bin turned into the world’s first zero-waste restaurant. From the food on the plate, to the crockery it’s served on, and the furniture itself, every part of the Silo restaurant comes from a desire to be respectful to the environment.

You might not be at the stage to completely remove a bin from your restaurant, but consider growing your own produce, using upcycled material for your interiors, or signing up to a scheme that helps you do good, and get rewarded.

Carbon Free Dining is an exclusive Lightspeed Restaurant Rewards Programme run in partnership with Sustainably Run. It allows you, the restaurateur, to save money on your Lightspeed subscription, while employing more sustainable practices in your business. 

Take note of what Lightspeed customers Osip and Apricity–both of which hold green Michelin stars–are doing to make their business more sustainable. Osip removed all paper menus from their restaurant. Not only is this a way of reducing waste, but it also gives the Osip kitchen the flexibility to adapt the menu daily based on what’s in season. 

At Apricity, everything they do, from how they display the menu, to how they wash the dishes, and the suppliers they use is carefully considered from an environmental perspective. Even the design of the restaurant itself is circular and low-waste, with elements being able to be removed and reused if the restaurant changes location. 

Start delighting guests today

Restaurant customer service is an art form. One that takes years of practice, trial, and error. Get it right, and it can be the difference between a good place to eat and a great one. Want to learn how Lightspeed Restaurant can help you? Let’s talk.

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More of this topic: Customer Experience