Listening to customer feedback and taking it to heart should be an ongoing part of managing your restaurant business, not just when you have time, but on a regular basis. You have several options for cultivating feedback. You can do it through face-to-face conversations, through social media, or even through your staff. But the most tried-and-true method is the customer comment card.
Offering this easy and quick way to give feedback can increase your response rate and give you meaningful data to work with if you want to make improvements.
The Purpose of Comment Cards
Comment cards are an opportunity for customers to praise your restaurant or make suggestions for improvement, even some suggestions you might not want to hear. They offer first-hand feedback about customer service, menu selections, food preparation, the cleanliness of your establishment, and the general atmosphere of your restaurant.
Getting the Card to Your Customers
Your comment card can be made available next to the cash register or you tucked in with the check at the end of the diner's experiences at your place. It should be something they can take with them and fill out later or complete then and there if that's their choice. You can encourage them to do it then and thereby also placing pens or pencils in a holder near the register.
You might also consider offering a comment card digitally on your website or through your Facebook page using a service such as Survey Monkey, but paper and pen is still a good way to grab customer feedback while it's still fresh. How many times have you been given the address to an online survey with a shopping receipt, and how many times have you actually gone to the trouble of filling out that survey? Customers will typically do this when they're really heated up about something so you might get a slanted sample.
Your comment card can be anonymous—some customers might be more comfortable with that—or you can ask for names and contact information. If you add space for customers' names, addresses and/or emails and if they provide them, this gives you an opening to follow up to learn more—or to let them know that their suggestions have been taken to heart.
Sample Questions for a Restaurant Comment Card
You can adapt this sample card to suit your particular restaurant concept and your customer base. Ideally, it should ask diners to choose answers and give options, not write a manifesto about their experience in their own words. You don't want to scare people off. Your customers are just as busy as you are. They might be willing to fill out the card, but unwilling to spend a lot of time doing it, so little checkboxes are ideal.
Ask customers to rate the areas of your choice on a scale of a) unacceptable, b) needs improvement, c) fair, d) good, or e) excellent.
The areas about which you ask for feedback might include your servers, the food, or the wait time for a table. You can offer extra answer options in each category, such as:
Your server was:
The food was:
- Generous portions
- Tasted great
- Presentation was appealing
- Not how the men described it
- Dining room
- Waiting area
You might want to consider some other questions as well to give you a better feel for the feedback:
- What did you order today?
- How often do you dine with us?
- Would you like to be on our mailing list?
Finally, ask customers to add any other comments that might help you improve their dining experience.
A Final Word
Comment cards should be printed on good quality paper and feature your restaurant logo, physical address, and your mailing address if it's different. You can offer prizes or gift certificates as an incentive to further increase customer feedback. This is also a good way to increase your mailing list for other promotional activities.
If you've put off collecting customer feedback, it's time to get started. You might find areas that need fixing, but you'll also find out what's working really well. Be sure to take time to celebrate those successes with your staff and to tell them thank you.