The management and staff of many Caribbean restaurants in North America exercise great professionalism which is welcomed and appreciated by their customers. It would be very rewarding if more Caribbean restaurant establishments emulate their practices.
My observations and experiences influenced the production of this unsolicited or unsponsored list. My best experiences in a Caribbean restaurant in the US or Canada have been at Irie Bar & Grill in Glenarden, Maryland, Negril in Mitchellville, Maryland, Negril in Silver Spring, Maryland, The Door in Queens, New York, and Belleeney’s in Toronto, Canada. When you are in Kingston, Jamaica The Hot Pot is a place for delightful food, great customer service, and welcoming surroundings.
Here is the list of best practices
- Smile – Be welcoming and attentive to all customers. Individuals enter you restaurant to be served and treated in a professional manner. First impressions are very important to extending continued patronage or dishing out negative comments about your restaurant. If you treat each customer as being special, it will have a more lasting impact on persons who visit your restaurant. These concepts are taught by major restaurant chains that do business in your area and sometimes next to your place of business and continue to make $billions.
- Cleanliness – Have a clean presence in and around your business. Keep your walls, floor, and ceilings spotless. Here is why this is important: no one likes filthy surroundings, especially where they consume food. Clean Restrooms – Clean and well equipped restrooms are important to a pleasant experience at your restaurant.
- Appreciation – Find ways of showing your customers that you care about them. Small tokens of appreciation are vital elements to building a lasting relationship with your customers.
- Know your customers – Be kind and friendly towards each customer, call them by name, speak with them about their likes and dislikes (conduct surveys and polls). Find out what they like best about your restaurant; accept comments, criticisms, and recommendations.
Consistency of Taste – My Oxtail dinner, my curried goat or chicken, pelau, jerk chicken, steamed fish, roti, fry bake today should not be very different from the one I had yesterday. Restaurant owners must find ways to reproduce established menus which are remembered and yearned for by customers who will not notice a difference in the taste.
- Special offers – Give special offers to customers who are regulars, who place large orders, and who make referrals to your restaurant.
- Respect – Do not speak or text on your phone or play with electronic equipment while attending to a customer. Try not to speak with more than one customer at a time. Each customer wants your undivided attention — give it.
- Proper staffing – It is not very appropriate for a cashier to also be your food server or preparer. Money is one of the easiest conduits of germs. Your food preparation staff must exercise maximum acts of cleanliness and food safety.
- Background Music – Not everyone appreciates the vulgarity of dancehall, soca, or reggae music, therefore, the tone of your background music should be generally acceptable to all – Keep it conservative.
- Smile Again – Ensure that the satisfied customer returns soon. You can do this by being kind, gracious, and cordial with the customer. A simple; “Thank you for your patronage and please come back again” normally works!
Why did I compile this list?
I have been to Caribbean restaurants, in Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Mandeville, The Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Bowie, Silver Spring, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Richmond, Greenbelt, Florence (South Carolina), Hyattsville, College Park and other cities; my main complaint has always been bad customer service.
Operating a restaurant is not easy. The ongoing functions of accounting and management, inventory control, food and customer safety concerns relative to ordinances of state, province, city, county, or federal governments, marketing and branding, overheads, capital expenditure decisions, human resource decisions, cash flow projections, and customer relations management can become quite burdensome to restaurant owners. However, proper planning and implementation of strategies and procedures will guarantee success.
Restaurant owners and operators must remember that their bottom line is totally dependent on customers — treat us well.
By: Karl A. Haughton
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