The original version of this article appeared on BeanScene Magazine.
Hospitality point of sale (POS) company Impos has uncovered reservation tardiness and dietary requests as the top pet peeves for the café and restaurant business.
Impos conducted an online survey with more than 500 hospitality business owners, managers and workers across Australia in February 2016. Its results, revealed this month, indicate the top behaviours that could see customers get banned from their favourite hot spot:
1. Turning up late for reservations (33 per cent).
Impos says café employees avoid this one. In fact, many restaurants are taking a page out of the café-book by doing away with reservations, offering seats on a first come basis, and providing ample opportunity for takeaway orders.
2. Diners asking for special dietary requirements that are more of a “thinly-veiled preference than an allergy” (33 per cent)
3. Carelessness for the business’ property, such as breaking dishware (31 per cent)
4. Diners asking for free complementary items when an issue occurs (26 per cent).
5. Low sales contributions such as BYO alcohol, purchasing low-cost menu items, and drinking only tap water (26 per cent).
6. In-house or online complaints (19 per cent).
To combat some of the pet peeves as a café owner, Impos CEO Sean O’Meara says it’s important to build a business with a clear vision from the ground-up, and then empowering staff to perpetuate that model.
“You as the business decision maker have the power to put principles in place to prevent many of the circumstances that cause issues for your employees and business more broadly. So take the time to instil the ‘culture’ of your venue into employees, rather than relying on a reactive fix that ends up falling by the wayside after a few months,” Sean says.
To avoid the time challenges around difficult custom orders or ingredient substitution, one of the top Impos pet peeves, Sean recommends embracing the concept of set menus.
“It may seem ludicrous at first to refuse the removal or addition of ingredients to your dishes, but customers are surprisingly understanding when it comes to a venue protecting the thoughtful taste combinations put forth by their head chef or food supplier – it’s all about how you position it,” Sean says. “To still accommodate dietary restrictions, offer a few menu items that cater to common sensitivities like gluten or lactose-free, as well as give more creative freedom with your drink menu – offering soy and almond milk, reduced sugar syrups, and decaffeinated coffee.”
Many cafés also struggle with theft or property damage, likely due to the casual environment of the venue, which can inspire carelessness or entitlement in patrons.
Sean says the first to prevent damage is instilling a sense of responsibility among employees.
“If customers observe employees treating items like ceramic cups, tables, and decorations with care, they tend to subconsciously do the same. Incentivise your employees to reduce damage costs with monthly goals for broken dishes, and a reward for hitting that number,” he says.
One idea is to get employees to ask customers if their order is for takeaway, and make all silverware and water glasses self-serve by the register instead of set at the tables.
Sean says cafés also have a stronger tendency of patrons demanding complimentary drinks or food when service issues arise. His tip to navigate around it: outline clear company policies around the inability to provide complimentary items or empower the on-shift manager to make executive decisions on which situations a complimentary item is warranted.
“A key aspect of building your company’s culture is to invest in your employees and demonstrate that they are the core face of your business. Preventing a few minor pet peeves may seem minor in the grand scheme of your business strategy, but when you employees feel taken care of and supported, they will be more enthusiastic about the brand of your venue, and committed to the creation of that feel,” Sean says. “In turn, your customer’s experiences will improve – inspiring loyalty, increasing revenues and bolstering the reputation of your brand.”