Telegraph column: Use them or, yes, we will lose them

Nikki Baker of Eat sheffield
Nikki Baker of Eat sheffield

It’s no easy job working in the food industry, particularly as an independent restaurant owner: which ever way you look there are multi-national chains offering ‘eat as much as you like’, ‘free desserts’, ‘refills on the house’. Who doesn’t like a perceived bargain?

On top of that customers have a certain trust in chains. We’re constantly presented with opportunities to use them; they become familiar… oh, and don’t forget that ‘two for one’ voucher.

Most customers don’t think about the restaurateur. They’re not ardent foodies wanting to support ‘local and independent’, just someone spending their hard-earned and ever-decreasing disposable income – and wanting value in return.

As an independent, you have just one chance to ensure that you get it right; if you don’t you won’t see them again. But that very loyalty, that repeat custom, that word-of-mouth recommendation could make the difference between success and failure for your business.

So before we restaurateurs raise our eyebrows at the rates, rent, or VAT bill – and, believe me, they are eyebrow raising – we should make sure our own houses are in order.

How can we make that difference? Hospitality. It doesn’t matter whether your business is a café, casual dining, gastro pub, fine dining, if you always deliver the absolute best customer service, you will reap the rewards.

An average meal can still make for an exceptional experience if the customer service is right; if it’s poor, the experience can only be average no matter how exceptional the meal.

Front-of-house staff must be performers; it doesn’t matter how bad their day is, it’s all about the customer. Get the ‘art of service’ right and you’ll be on to a winner.

As a customer I want to feel welcome; to feel looked after by staff with good manners and a smile; who can anticipate my needs but are not overly attentive or interruptive.

I want the staff to be clean (surprisingly this is not always the case), I want the venue to be well kept, including the toilets.

These small things add up, and the greater the sum they add up to, the better chance you have of getting that customer back through your doors, spending money in your restaurant, supporting the success of your business.

Customers want to feel special; if they are dining with you, then they deserve the best of you.

We have some fantastic restaurants in Sheffield. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, then check out the website