Can you pinpoint what guests love about your restaurant? It is your food for sure, but it is likely more the menu that leaves them wanting more. Could it be your ambiance? What about your friendly staff? Or, timely service? After all, you place just as much emphasis on these important touches as you do the food you serve.
If not, you may want to re-think your strategy. Excellent guest service keeps bellies full and restaurants in business. In fact, good guest reviews are a barometer of a restaurant’s success.
“Restaurants simply cannot survive on first-time diners. It’s essential that good food and great guest service drives repeat business and successful restaurants,” noted Nancy Friedman, a featured guests service trainer and speaker to dozens of industries, including the restaurant business, in Modern Restaurant Management(opens in new tab).
Maybe great service means knowing a regular’s favorite booth, how a diner takes her coffee or, simply getting orders filled quickly, correctly and with a smile. Whatever it is, guest satisfaction is why some restaurants succeed and 17 percent fail(opens in new tab) after the first year.
On average, Americans will spend over half of their food budget on restaurants in 2019. Since restaurants reach about $825 billion in annual sales, according to the National Restaurant Association(opens in new tab), restaurant owners must tap into those profits with great guest service.
Here are three top restaurants doing just that, according to American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)(opens in new tab), and what you can learn to make your service go from good to great.
Chick-fil-A rules the fast-food roost
No one can deny the loyal guest base of Chick-fil-A(opens in new tab), but did you know it’s been the best fast food restaurant for guest satisfaction four years in a row?
There are many reasons(opens in new tab) for the restaurant’s popularity from being known as the most polite staff to its guest loyalty rewards program. Guests feel they get speed and accuracy of fast food services with the friendliness of traditional restaurants. Plus, Chick-fil-A knows how to cater to its consumers; the company continually asks what makes them happy.
Millennial guests said they dislike waiting in line, so Chick-fil-A launched a new app for ordering before you arrive. It gave away 131,000 free sandwiches for early downloaders. With over one million downloads in three days, the company not only locked in repeat guests, but also improved the ordering process to maximize profits.
Top off these guest-service wins with their “less guilty” pleasures of chicken sandwiches instead of burgers, and you see why this restaurant chain has remained at the top of ACSI list since 2015.
Texas Roadhouse lassos full-service dining
Texas Roadhouse and Cracker Barrel have been battling for the number one spot in sit-down dining guest satisfaction, but in 2018 Texas Roadhouse took the bull by the horns. And, it’s no surprise why this full-service restaurant took the lead, two words: free food.
Texas Roadhouse prides itself on down-home ambiance and casual dining and gives away complimentary food from the moment you sit down. All guests are given free peanuts and freshly baked warm rolls with homemade cinnamon butter. According to Delish(opens in new tab), the chain goes through 8 million pounds of peanuts a year.
Texas Roadhouse also serves high-quality meat in every cut from each location’s own private butcher.
Combine this expertise with friendly staff and low prices, and you can see why this restaurant took the top slot in 2018.
Panera Bread masters the modern café experience
The last restaurant on the list is unique because it doesn’t fit a category as easily as the first two. Yet, the chain still performs well in terms of guests satisfaction. It lives up to its vague categorization of fast-casual dining, but unlike Chick-fil-A, it does not portray a fast-food chain vibe. Instead, it opts for a bakery-café culture.
Like Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread has an app for ordering food easily, so it wins for fast guests service, rapid take-out services and other modern conveniences like free Wi-Fi for in-restaurant dining and relaxing. Like Texas Roadhouse, the restaurant bakes fresh bread daily.
What makes Panera Bread unique(opens in new tab), and continually a guests pleaser is their menu’s variety. You can get everything from pastries and sandwiches to soups (in bread bowls), salads and entrees for adults and kids, alike. Plus, it has an extensive drink menu.
Most notably is the dedication to the health of guests. The chain was one of the first eateries to list calorie counts on menus and provide safe meat products like free-range eggs, antibiotic-free meat and chicken at scale. The company also has community cafes(opens in new tab) to feed those in lower income areas with a pay-what-you-can system.
What each of these restaurants shares in common is good food and a dedication to what their guests want and need from them. This, in turn, translates to higher sales, continued success and a dedicated fan base who will always know what to expect when they enter their doors.