Amit Paranjape’s Blog

10 Ways In Which Restaurants Need to Improve!

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants by Amit Paranjape on July 16, 2011

How often do you experience this?  You walk into a fancy restaurant for the first time. It is located at a premier address. You notice the distinct grandeur – the lighting, the water-fountains, the expensive art, the music, the fine wine bottles nicely showcased on the wall rack…. You are greeted and taken to your table, and given a menu. You are enjoying the nice ambience, when suddenly you realize that the menu card is torn, soiled and worse(!) – has some food stains on it!
Numerous fancy restaurants have sprung up in Pune and indeed in all major Indian cities, over the past few years. These restaurants spend a lot of money on real-estate and decor, but often times pay scant attention to minor details. Of course, food quality and taste is of paramount importance. But the supporting setting really separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. These supporting items become all the more important when the customer is paying many times over for the same dish, as compared to an ordinary restaurant.
In this article, I am trying to highlight some of these basic things that go a long way in improving customer satisfaction.

1. Menu cards: It’s amazing to note how a restaurant will spend millions on decor and yet completely ignore what is possibly their key interface point with their guest! I don’t care if guests ‘spoil’ the menu cards….print new ones!

2. Service Presentation: These are the basics! Greet the customer, lead them to the table. Offer choice of sitting, make sure they are comfortable, etc. Sounds very simple, right? Many top places don’t do a good job at this.
And I think its a good idea for the Head Chef to once in a while step out of the kitchen and meet some guests. This is the best way to receive feedback, first hand.

3. Service: Communication is key. The lead steward needs to be crisp and clear in welcoming the guests. Neither too aggressive and over-bearing, nor too shy. Being indifferent is even worse. For the lead steward, as well as rest of the serving staff – please make sure that their English is up to mark (especially, if they insist in speaking in English). I have no issues communicating with them in Marathi/Hindi – but some ‘fancy’ places insist that their waiters use English! And please learn the correct pronunciations – the ‘j’ in ‘Fajita’ is pronounced ‘h’!  I think overall, staff training is critical. Top restaurants spend months on staff training even before the opening. Hence they rate much better on the service. Training is not just limited to basics like serving style and ordering communications…but also into the more subtle aspects of customer psychology.

4. Service – Issues Management: Pune Restaurants are quite bad when it comes to ‘Issues Management’. By ‘Issues Management’ I refer to way in which a customer complaint/issue is handled. If a customer doesn’t like a dish/its preparation – don’t spend time arguing and justifying it! First offer to redo it and/or substitute it with something else. After all attempts, if the customer is still not satisfied, provide some discount on the bill. Often times, this is a small price to pay, but good restaurants are not very keen to do this.

5. Seating comfort: I absolutely hate it when real fancy and expensive restaurants offer horrible seating. Sometimes, its in the name of ‘aesthetics’ and sometimes, it just negligence. For those restaurants who think of creating an uncomfortable ‘rural feel’ in their restaurants – just stop and think – did you do away with air-conditioning? Or purified water? Then why create these horrible bench or floor seats??

6. Ambience level: It is very important to get the right ambience level. Not too bright and overbearing, and not too plain. In fact, a little subtle is better. Many restaurants in Pune go overboard with a ‘jazzy look’. Also see my comment on music. Lighting needs to be at the right levels. Most places either err on one side (too bright, or too dim). In general I would prefer bright over dim – I want to see what I am eating 🙂

7. Feedback Process: Getting the right feedback is often times one of the most important ways to drive continuous improvement and course corrections. Yet many restaurants simply boil it down to one feedback form given with the bill! It is important for the manager to regularly (and discretely) check with the customers. However, don’t overdo it. If the customer complains, offer to change it, but don’t explain things (Here we make it this way..etc…).

8. Loyalty: Many restaurants do a bad job of maintaining customer loyality. Some do it quite well. If I visit a place regularly, its a good thing to be greeted by your name. Even better if they know your favorite order. Rewarding loyalty is very important. And its not as simple as giving away free dishes/dinners. Its much more – like getting me a reservation, when its all booked. Or getting me an off-the-menu item.

9. Right staffing levels: This is another common problem. In most cases staffing levels are not adjusted to account for the surge traffic. I understand this means extra investment..but this is key for top restaurants.

10. Music: Most Pune restaurants have the music turned on too loud. Music should be soft and preferably instrumental.

11. Let me add a 11th point, before I end this blogpost. The all important  ‘Hygiene’ – Pay attention to small things such as – Stains, Dirt in corners, Plates, Cutlery, glasses. Uniforms of the waiting staff. Common areas, etc.

NOTE – Here I am specifically referring to med to high-priced restaurants. Don’t expect compliance on all these 11 points, at lower priced restaurants – still these are good yardsticks for them to evaluate themselves.



7 Responses

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  1. Vasuki Goroor Srinivasan said, on July 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more Amit, especially Point 1 and 11. Absolute hit on the head of the nail. I have seen some fab joints but when it comes to Menu card, even basic spell check is not done ;-))

  2. Aditto said, on July 18, 2011 at 10:06 am

    These points are very valid. Pune is known for its large number of restaurants… they are perhaps the only places you can entertain your guests / friends / relatives if you do not wanna go out of Pune. But most restaurants in Pune simply suck when it comes to service, which however, is much better than that in many Indian cities (eg Kolkata).

    I have found Sigree to be a decent restaurant with very mediocre and overpriced food. However, why I like that place is because of its management. I once found the buffet to be terrible and stale right after having the disastrous kebab starters, and they offered me a seat indoors, and also offered me complimentary starters to choose from the menu!

    Secondly, about lounges and pubs in Pune – I simply do not understand why they play so old music. All, read – ALL lounges in Pune, including places like Doolally, HRC and 1000 Oaks play rock and other popular music from the 70s/80s – Queen, Pink Floyd, Beetles, and some other… Clubs in the US and places like Bangalore play the latest music! Damn it, is it that difficult to pull out music that is currently on the top of Billboard charts? Wherever we go we hear the same songs – “We will rock you”, “Comfortably Numb”, “”Nothings Gonna Stop Us”… I am bored of those songs now. Pune needs to wake up!

    But before that, Pune needs a brand new FM radio channel dedicated to English music! Latest English Music!

  3. Makarand said, on July 18, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Nice one Amit.

    I think that the low-priced restaurants have their own parameters like

    1. The owner eats the food cooked here and
    2. Workers are paid on a daily basis here!

    These may be a bit too much for them 🙂

  4. Varsha said, on August 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Nice list…
    agree on all counts

    Had an incident in Pune. It was raining a bit, so we called a joint and asked for home delivery… They came back with a “Paus padtoy, home delivery milnaar nahi”

  5. Bhooshan said, on October 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Great job Amit ! As usual….. You will say.
    One thing that irritates me is personal hygiene of waiting staff. Malodorous waiter serving your food and reclining on your chair is absolute turn off !
    Restaurants should spend some money in washing staffs’ clothes and keep them smell free.

  6. Aditya said, on October 24, 2011 at 3:59 am

    // Respect.
    99% people have similar feelings. Not even 1% take the time to write about it. Agree with everything.

    Would like to add one more point, the temperature of food and the finger bowls that are served where ‘normal’ Indian food is served. There are often times when the food is too cold and the water in finger bowls too hot. It’s again common sense – almost completely ignored everywhere.

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on October 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Aditya – thanks for your comment.

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