Most people go into foodservice to create profitable businesses. Yes, it's still about the food, but ultimately, businesses need to maintain healthy margins to survive in this highly competitive market. Earning repeat customers is one of the best ways to establish a well respected and growing restaurant brand.
What makes your guests come back? Some things are obvious, like food, service, perceived value, and creating special experiences. Even a sense of community and belonging help garner raving fans. But not many folks think of tableware, even though it plays a huge role in cementing positive perceptions and experiences for your guests. Let's take a look at how it can help customer retention efforts at restaurants.
What Do Your Guests Expect From Tableware?
A third-party study found that guests are most pleased when eating off plates that are:
- Bright (no dulling or fading)
Guests put more weight on the qualities above than whether their plates are made from melamine or china. So regardless of whether you use china or melamine in your restaurant, make sure your plateware hits each of those points before they leave the kitchen.
Customer Loyalty Tip: To keep your guests happy and coming back for more, know when your tableware needs to replaced, and take the necessary steps to do so.
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With tight margins, it's certainly tempting to hold on to your tableware until it's on its last leg. But delaying tableware replenishment actually costs you money because you won't be meeting or exceeding your guests' expectations, which reduces the likelihood of repeat visits.
So how do you know when it's time to let your dinnerware retire with dignity? Generally, plateware should be removed from service when it's:
- Chipped, cracked, or extensively scratched
- Losing its luster/finishes are dulling
- Embedded, permanent stains (which can be easily avoided)
How Do You Know When to Replace Your Tableware?
We recommend keeping a 3:1 ratio of plateware on-hand at all times. Doing so allows you to keep one plate in use, one in rest, and one in the wash. This spreads out how often each plate is used, which helps increase their overall service life. It's a good rule of thumb whether you're using melamine or china.
One key sign that you're falling below the 3:1 ratio is when you start seeing wet plates on tables. This means that you don't have enough inventory in-house to let your plates rest and fully dry.
Regardless of whether your plates are made from melamine or china, when you slip below the sweet spot of 3:1, service life is shortened and you set yourself up for costly:
Not only do these attributes increase your dinnerware replacement frequency, your guests are served on wet plates, which means:
- Potentially soggy food
- Poor presentation
- Rings on tables
- Sanitary issues
If you see wet plates on your tables, you know you're headed toward an unsightly plateware situation and should take steps to replenish your inventory.
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Regular inspection of your plateware is another measure you can take. Doing so quarterly or bi-annually can help you find visible flaws before you slip beneath a 3:1 ratio.
Taking the time to ensure you're only serving guests on clean, bright, and chip-free plates is a single, efficient step you can take toward winning repeat customers. They will tell their friends. They will bring their friends. Your operation gets all of these benefits without having to spend advertising dollars or even invest in expensive, fancy plates.
Don't let your hard work creating delicious meals, a great atmosphere, and well trained staff go to waste because your tableware looks worn out. Just by maintaining a 3:1 ratio and retiring pieces when they no longer look new, you can benefit from:
- Repeat customers
- Saving money due to maximized service life
- Clean plates as the perfect canvas to frame your food presentation, enticing your guests to share on social media
If you use melamine plateware, you probably know that it's durable and doesn't chip often when it's properly cared for and that glazes and patterns eventually fade with normal wear and tear. Those qualities come with the territory. You probably also know that it can stain, but you have control over that. Here's how to avoid staining, which will help keep your dinnerware clean and bright for as long as possible.
So stay on top of your tableware and enjoy a thriving, growing, and healthy restaurant packed with happy guests who just can't get enough. You know your food is amazing, so let it shine by only serving on clean, bright, chip-free plates.
Tell us in the comments about some low-cost, helpful customer retention tips you've experienced in your career!