Customer complaints. Everyone gets them. No matter how great the food and service is, customer complaints at a restaurant are inevitable. Restaurant owners have two options when they receive a customer's complaint; they can ignore the complaint (essentially blaming the customer) or deal with the problem head-on.
Consider this, what if a restaurant manager looked at a complaint as an opportunity rather than a problem. Some complaints you know are coming- food taking a long time because the kitchen is in the weeds on a Friday night, for example. Other customer complaints may come as a surprise to managers, such as rudeness on the phone or problems taking a dinner reservation. To help pinpoint problems both big and small restaurant can periodically distribute comment cards.
Comment cards are an opportunity for customers to praise your restaurant and make suggestions. They offer instant feedback for servers, food, and atmosphere. While you will receive criticism, many restaurant staff will be pleasantly surprised at the number of positive feedback customers leave on comment cards. This can empower staff to continue to offer the best service possible at every shift.
What information should go on a comment card?
The obvious stuff, such as questions about the menu selection, prices, quality of the meal as well as service and cleanliness. You can also leave a space for customer's name, phone number, email and mailing address. A comment card is also a great way to add names to your mailing/social media list.
How many questions should be on a comment card?
You want the questionnaire to be thorough without being so long customer won't want to take the time to fill it out. Ten questions with an easy to rate scale are ideal. You can leave a space for comments at the end. Check out this sample restaurant card.
How often should restaurant comment cards be distributed?
You can choose to put comment cards out periodically every couple of months, or every day. Distributing cards periodically saves on printing costs. Simply drop the cards with the dinner check, slip them inside menus or leave them in places where the customer will see them, like at the bar or in the waiting area.
Can I use social media in place of a comment card?
Mmmm....yes and no. Social media is a great place to gather customer feedback and listen to what they are saying about your restaurant, but if you are looking for a way to drill down to any potential problems with service or food or atmosphere, you need to ask specific questions. You can migrate from a paper comment card to a digital survey that can be done via phone if you'd like. Younger customers will appreciate the ease of technology. Older customers might still prefer a paper comment card, so offering both is a good way to gather as much feedback as possible.
I have a complaint, now what?
Some owners or managers view every complaint as a customer's attempt to exhort a free meal out of the restaurant. They refuse to believe that there are any valid problems with their establishment. Don't let yourself fall into this category. If a customer is taking the time to alert you to a problem (rather than keeping silent and never coming back) then have the courtesy (and common sense) to respond to it.
Customer comment cards are a great way to encourage feedback about your restaurant. In an age of digital surveys, QR codes and social media, it is still okay to distribute old fashion pen and paper surveys. Making it as easy as possible for customers of all ages to give feedback, will encourage comments and help you identify which areas your restaurant does well and where you need to make improvements.