How do you define “quality check”, and what are your restaurant’s and the server’s objectives when performing one?

It’s true that a restaurant complaint responded to quickly and handled well has a greater positive impact on a guest’s experience than a visit with no complaints or problems.  A well handled complaint is more likely to produce a repeat visit to your restaurant, and the guest is far more likely to refer others, telling them about their great experience.

So, why do servers avoid any action that might discover a potential problem, when doing so would reveal a golden opportunity to shine?

What was once a general but sincere inquiry at table check, “how is everything?” has in most cases been replaced by “how’s everything tasting?”.  Being a lover of the restaurant industry and of the concept of hospitality, this statement turns my stomach more than a bad meal.  Why?  Where do I begin?!

The obvious point is that this question is specifically targeted to the food only.  This is just one aspect of a restaurant guest’s experience, and the one that is the most likely to receive a favourable response.  It’s a pointed and loaded question.

How do you define “quality check”?  What’s your objective with a quality check – is it the quality of the food only?  If so, do your servers quality check after every stage of the meal – beverages, appetizers, including soup & salad, deserts – or only during the main course?  And are they checking quickly enough to address any issues?  Once a guest with a complaint has been left far enough into the meal, they have resigned themselves to simply move on, in which case they are more likely to only tell their friends about the problem, and now the server has missed any opportunity to discover or the problem and properly look after the guest.

Asking “how is everything” is far more open, allowing guests to feel welcome to address anything that may be of importance to them, including and especially the service.  What if the soup is (potentially) perfect, but they don’t have a spoon or the opportunity to let the server know that?  Are you and your servers interested only in favourable responses, or are you truly seeking out feedback on how well your restaurant and your servers are performing?

The truth is that many servers really don’t want to dig deep into the guest’s experience because they’re not prepared, nor do they have the confidence to welcome criticism, nor do they have the authority to handle complaints without a manager’s assistance.  So, they use language that skims over the hard points, or they avoid it altogether.

Here are the real meat & potatoes:  Do you as a restaurant owner or manager genuinely want to know what your guests think or feel?  Do you genuinely want to know how good a job you’re doing?  Do your servers genuinely want to know how good a job they’re doing?  And ultimately, do you want to continuously improve your service?  If the answer to these is “yes”, then you need to ensure your servers are conducting the conversation in a way that is genuine, open and welcoming, and honestly seeks out what the guests truly think and feel.

Rather than avoiding problems, seek them out!  Look for these opportunities to impress your guests with how well you can take care of them, and of course, opportunities to improve.  Use language that sends the message that you and your restaurant servers are committed to an exceptional guest experience.  Look for these opportunities to provide service and hospitality.  This is the business we’re in.

Want to embark on a journey toward continual improvement and increase your repeat & referral business?  Embrace the full quality check of the guest’s experience, including the food and especially the service.  Your bottom line will thank you and grow.