KARACHI: “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!”
The fate of a restaurant virtually lies in the hands of self-proclaimed food critics (read as: amateur bloggers) these days who fill Facebook pages with their opinions. But what it really comes down to, when you critique restaurants, the old school and correct way, are two factors: quality of food and customer service. The answer is simple. Ask the customer. But how?
The issue lies in the approach a manager, or customer services rep takes. Should they simply use feedback cards or is it important to hear the customer speak his mind? Is it necessary to interrupt diners during their meals, or is it better to wait till they are done?
“There’s a way of doing it,” says Pompei manager Shakeel Muneer. “If you know people are busy talking amongst themselves, then we will not interrupt and disturb them.” Before storming the customers’ table with food-related inquiries, its best to take a minute and judge the mood first. “When the diners are free, that’s our cue,” he adds.
He feels the worst thing that can happen to customers is the entire staff breathing down their necks at once. “It’s the manager’s job and only he should do it. And since the manager deals with seating and reservations anyway, there’s a comfort level there,” adds Muneer. “We follow up in between intervals.”
Is it important to get feedback from customers? “They expect this. If we don’t ask, then they actually mind,” he continues. “Well, it’s really just about fine dining and this is how it’s done around the globe. Pizza Hut and those kind of restaurants are different — questioning customers like that over there is probably not appropriate.”
While Pompei’s strategy is about directly asking the customer, Ginsoy’s team has more faith in feedback cards. “The manager can’t always ask every single person on the table and we want all individual opinions,” says Ginsoy’s manager Shahnawaz Ali Jafri, adding that feedback cards cover everyone. “Yes, we do ask the customers directly also but this is very helpful too.”
He admits customer feedback is a prerequisite to a restaurant’s success. “It’s very important. We need to know how they feel about the services, the food, the ambience,” says Jafri. “The waiter however, shouldn’t bug the customer during his meal — you should be able to judge by the body language if they want to be approached or not.” The manager should save all the questions for the end, when the customer is about to leave, he says.
Xanders’ manager Anwar Hussain has a different outlook altogether. “There’s no need for feedback cards,” he says. “Feedback is important yes, and if there’s a problem, it’s good to know about it so that it can be fixed.” He feels that it’s strictly under the manager’s job description and not the waiters. “It’s his job to build good relations with the customers so that they are in turn, comfortable to come forward if there are any issues,” he adds.
Do customers get irritated when they are asked to give feedback? “We don’t ask too many times because well anyone would get bugged then,” Hussain continues. “But otherwise they don’t get irritated because it’s a norm to ask around here.” He feels the best time to ask the customer how the food was is in the middle of their meal. “That’s the ideal time, after they’ve had a few bites. There’s no point asking later when their stomachs are full because even if they liked the food, they’d be too full to say yes, it was really good,” he admits.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2013.
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