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It All Comes Down To Your Tabletop Experience. 3 Ways To Win Over Guests

In today’s environment, the customer experience is the most important table stakes.

First a pandemic, then labor shortages and supply chain problems. Yet, the latest business-buster for full-service restaurants is beyond a takeout, simpler menu or run to Costco solution. It’s inflation. Inflated prices from your suppliers challenges your own value proposition. More importantly, everyday inflation experienced by consumers at the gas pumps, the supermarket and even pet food is something you can’t control. That makes your restaurant’s tabletops your most important piece of real estate.

Datassential compared consumer attitudes on where they would cut back their spending as inflation continues to rise between last December and March of this year. At the top of the list was cutting back on restaurant meals.

There was a 7% uptick in consumers saying they would cut back on restaurant meal purchase due to inflation in just a three-month period according to Datassential.
There was a 7% uptick in consumers saying they would cut back on restaurant meal purchase due to inflation in just a three-month period according to Datassential.

The good news is that Datassential found that full-service restaurants haven’t seen as much menu inflation as quick-service and fast casual restaurants, giving you an edge in consumer perceptions.

At the end of 2021, casual and fine dining restaurants had less menu price inflation that quick service and fast casual restaurants.
At the end of 2021, casual and fine dining restaurants had less menu price inflation that quick service and fast casual restaurants.

If your menu prices must rise, or portion sizes shrink, there must be added value to overcome the sticker shock of your menu. It boils down to a higher value tabletop experience that makes a customer come back again and again. Here are three tips that can help.

1. Make Training Up New Wait Staff Easier

If you’ve been lucky, or just good at recruiting and retaining a great wait staff, skip to number two, but every operator can find improvement in ramping up new employee training. The waitperson is the most important in the tabletop interaction that will have customers coming back.

Upselling through recommendations requires training and instinct.
Upselling through recommendations requires training and instinct.

Utilizing flashcards and examples from your best waitstaff is the quickest route to successfully training new employees. Schedule quick sessions with new employees quizzing them with flashcard challenges to accelerate proficiency. Just getting the basics down for great table service can be reduced to 12 steps. Tools like Quizlet or this flashcard form can be helpful resources. Remind your wait staff that the better the service and upselling on your food and bar menus…the better their tip.

2. Clear The Clutter. Bring On The Good Stuff

2. Clear The Clutter. Bring On The Good Stuff

The pandemic cleared tables of many old COVID hazards such as ketchup bottles, sugar ramekins and table tents. Keeping clutter to a minimum on your tables gives more room to dazzle guests and speeds cleanup for faster table turns. Keep guests occupied and happy after drinks are served by offering a basket of delicious rolls or bread on the table as they wait for appetizers, salads, or entrees.  Include shaped butter that will elevate the dining experience and make customers think you thought of everything. Butterball® Farms offers a variety of shaped butters in the form of premium butter balls or roses that help start the dining experience off right.

3. Winning Cocktail & Menus

During the pandemic, customers craved foods and bar drinks that were hard or too time consuming to make at home. Datassential has tracked what consumers have been craving from restaurants and it’s clear that global flavors are at the top of the list. No matter your cuisine, adding one or two globally inspired menu items can give you an advantage.

Consumer cravings point to cuisines that they can’t or hard to make at home with a global flare.
Consumer cravings point to cuisines that they can’t or hard to make at home with a global flare.

New or trending cocktails also play an important role in joyful dining experience. Make sure that your waitstaff knows your bar’s best drinks or ones that have been recently added to offer guests something deliciously unique. Here are the top trending whiskey and vodka-based cocktails this year.

Trending Cocktails
*Datassential, May 20

The best route to fighting inflation is to overdeliver great service, offer extraordinary food and drinks and mostimportantly, make a lasting impression so consumers forget the cost and buy the experience.