It’s become somewhat of a standard procedure to be asked, at the end of the dining occasion, “How was everything?”
This needs to change – in restaurants and elsewhere in business. Here’s why, and how.
I’ve often wondered why the hospitality team asks this question at the end of the event. If something was amiss or not to the diner’s satisfaction, what is to be done at that point?
Other than reducing the check, nothing really. I suppose the establishment could give a certificate for future use, but if the experience didn’t go well, the person is probably not inclined to come back (unless she is a frequent customer).
This question can also put the diner in a tough spot.
If he didn’t raise any issues during the meal, why point it out at the end? The same principle applies. What does he expect to be done at that point?
I was thinking about this topic the other day when my father and I had lunch at a local diner. The food and service are consistently excellent, and our family has been customers for many years.
On this visit, I decided to try an item I hadn’t previously ordered at the diner. You know the wonderful feeling you get anticipating a food combination. That’s what I thought when I added potato pancakes to my corned beef sandwich order.
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the potato pancakes. I’m used to real good potato pancakes or latkes, the kind you get at a Jewish deli or eat on Hanukkah. These were spicy and contained something that looked like green onions, which I didn’t like. Despite that, I didn’t send them back, instead eating some and chalking the rest up to experimentation, including a mental note not to order them again.
At checkout, as expected, the manager ringing us up asked, “How was everything?”
I told her the corned beef sandwich was delicious, but the potato pancakes weren’t good. Her reply: “Everyone really likes them.” She didn’t say it in a mean way, but that didn’t matter. Whether or not she intended, here’s what I processed: not only didn’t I like the food, but it was my fault, too.
Let’s contrast this episode to another restaurant experience earlier this year at a burger chain called Zinburger.
The coleslaw was lousy and after one taste I sent it back. I couldn’t eat it.
A short while later I was surprised when a manager came over to our table. He asked very nicely if he could get some feedback about the coleslaw. I was taken aback but quickly realized his concern was genuine. He really wanted to understand my reaction and learn the specific reasons for disliking the product. I recall he even said something about being able to get different product variations from his supplier.
I was impressed, and felt good about the interaction, which created positive vibes for the Zinburger brand.
So, what’s the point of sharing these two stories?
For starters, it’s time to retire the useless “How was everything” phrase, which is a poor, throwaway line. Hospitality staff should simply say, “Thanks for coming” or “Thank you for your business” at the end of the meal.
After all, in most good establishments, someone on the team will stop by at least once during the meal to check-in and make any necessary adjustments. (In fairness, it was unusual not to happen at the previously mentioned diner).
Beyond that, and applicable across other business situations, is a more fundamental point. If you don’t want to know, don’t really care, cannot and/or will not do anything about what you learn, then don’t ask.
The worst thing is to ask and then do nothing. Don’t let your customers walk out the door feeling bad about giving you important feedback. That’s just wrong.
Instead, make sure everything is excellent in real-time by asking, “How is everything?” It’s much better to get feedback when you can take action and influence the customer outcome. Of course, this means being prepared to act as necessary.
Much has been written, including by me, about the critical importance of understanding customers and product/service performance, and factoring that learning into ongoing business operations to maximize customer experience and satisfaction. Continue doing that.
Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at StratGo Marketing, a “nuts and bolts” strategic marketing resource.