by Dallas Henderson, Account Manager at RizePoint
Every restaurant makes mistakes, especially during busy shifts, when you’re understaffed, or when taking large, complicated orders. But consider what could happen when you serve the wrong meal to a guest:
- The guest is disappointed, frustrated, or angry, and may never come back to your restaurant.
- An upset guest posts scathing reviews online, which could negatively impact your future sales. Since 97% of consumers rely on online reviews, this really matters. Poor reviews can damage customer loyalty, sales and, ultimately, your reputation.
- Your restaurant wastes food, time, and money from remaking (and possibly comping) the wrong meal.
- In the worst-case scenario, if the error involved a guest with food allergies, the customer could get sick – or even die – from the mistake. As a result, your restaurant could face expensive, time-consuming, and stressful litigation, as well as terrible publicity. Plus, imagine how horrible your team will feel if their mistake sickened – or killed – a guest.
Whether a customer orders a meal as it’s listed on the menu or requests modifications because of a food allergy, because they’re vegetarian or vegan, or just because they dislike avocado, it’s your restaurant’s responsibility to provide exactly what they want.
Improving order accuracy will boost a variety of metrics, including customer satisfaction and loyalty, increased sales and profits, and positive reviews. It will also help decrease wasted time, money, and food.
It’s in your best interest to increase order accuracy, and here are 12 tips to do so:
- Prioritize customer service. Understand that customers could go anywhere, so provide exceptional service to keep them coming back to your restaurant instead of other places. Accommodate their requests, whether they ask for a certain table or want nachos with no guacamole. Demonstrate that they can rely on your team to provide an outstanding experience – which includes getting their orders right!
- Measure order accuracy. To make your customers to feel valued and appreciated – and to boost key performance indicators (KPIs) – provide accurate meals. Set a goal for order accuracy (98% or higher is a good target) and measure it regularly. If you aren’t consistently meeting this goal, use tech tools to determine why. Perhaps your employees need more training, there are frequent breakdowns in your team’s communication, or you’re facing other barriers to success. Once you identify the problems, you can take immediate steps to fix them.
- Implement the right software. Today’s tech solutions help restaurants elevate safety, quality, and accuracy, among other metrics. Restaurant tech is no longer just “nice to have” – but a necessity for brands of all sizes and budgets. Rely on digital tools to identify key components that impact order accuracy, including the number of employees working per shift, the complexity of your menu, and the communication throughout the meal preparation process. Also, opt for an integrated tech stack, which will provide more comprehensive, cohesive insights and data.
- Improve key accuracy drivers. Numerous factors impact order accuracy. For instance, the experience level of the people taking (and making) the orders contributes to their accuracy. Also, the number of employees working during any given shift matters. If your restaurant is short-staffed, employees may be harried, exhausted, and overtaxed, leading them to make more mistakes. The complexity and variability of your menu makes it more (or less) prone to error. A huge list of menu options, cutesy meal names, or vague descriptions may lead to a greater number of mistakes or misunderstandings vs. a short, straightforward menu with clear descriptions.
- Clarify and verify. Make it standard operating procedure to repeat the entire order back to your guests, whether they’re ordering a meal to eat onsite, a takeout meal, or delivery. Whenever guests have special requests, be sure the person taking (and making) the order clearly understands what they want. Determine whether a special order is a food allergy or a personal preference. Either way, you’ll need to get the order right, but take extra precautions with the food allergy (e.g., change gloves, use a separate prep area, use a clean pan, etc.) for added protection.
- Check the order repeatedly. Your team should double and triple check the order at every production stage, comparing it to the original ticket. Also, take the added step of visually inspecting the order before serving it to the guest (or packaging it to go) to ensure it’s correct. For instance, look to make sure a dairy-free meal isn’t garnished with cheese or that a beef burger wasn’t accidentally subbed for a veggie burger. Many mistakes can be avoided with careful checks throughout the production process. It’s also smart to mark modified meals – such as using stickers or markers on packaging, or colored frill picks or special plates for on-prem dining.
- Train employees. This should be a top priority and an ongoing effort. Train employees about proper protocols, safety precautions, and accuracy measures. Ensure they know how to properly use all equipment, including tech tools. Explain the rationale behind your protocols – e.g., make sure not to use any nuts (including almond milk or peanut oil) when making a meal for a nut-allergic guest. Also, be certain that your staff knows the “hidden” ingredients in foods – like Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, so it can’t be used in a meal for vegans or seafood-allergic guests. And discuss (and reinforce) the possible repercussions of serving the wrong meal (angering the customer, making guests sick from an allergic reaction, wasting food, being inefficient, etc.).
- Use scheduling tools. As the labor shortage continues, restaurants are struggling to fully staff each shift. Remember – when employees are overworked, exhausted, and stressed, they’re more likely to make mistakes. Therefore, rely on scheduling software to determine your busiest and slowest shifts so you can staff accordingly. When you have the proper number of employees working, it reduces the burden and makes operations more seamless and accurate.
- Reduce waste (and related costs). Think about it: each time your staff makes an inaccurate meal, they must throw it out and start over. That means wasted food, money, and time. While one wrong meal may seem insignificant, several wrong meals per shift will add up quickly, and these “small expenses” can cut into your bottom-line. Additionally, you’ll need to appease unhappy customers, which could mean comping the meal, giving them free drinks or dessert, or providing a gift certificate for a future visit.
- Track accountability. If your restaurant is making many order errors, you’ll need to determine if it’s one problematic employee or a more widespread issue across the restaurant. Tech tools are instrumental in figuring this out, as they can track employee performance, compliance, and accountability. This way, you can pinpoint where the problems are occurring so you can rectify them with more training, better communication, different systems, etc.
- Build predictive models. This is an important exercise to help elevate accuracy, safety, and quality. The first step is to collect, analyze and leverage data. Look at information that can impact your order accuracy, including restaurant layout, workflows, menu complexity, inventory in stock, etc. When building a predictive model, identify the datasets you need for the things you want to predict. Then, build an algorithm using those datasets to make predictions and learn.
- Create a collaborative culture. The point of tracking performance and compliance data isn’t to punish employees. Instead of creating a punitive culture, create a collaborative one. Encourage employees to ask questions and point out issues that need to be addressed. If they see errors, broken equipment, or other problems, assure them that they won’t “get in trouble” for speaking up. Make everyone feel ownership – “we’re all in this together.” This helps employees feel more engaged, knowledgeable, and empowered to solve problems and be part of the error-reducing solution.
Restaurants are busy places, and your staff is hustling to provide a wonderful experience to every guest. A big part of that effort means getting their orders right. Implement the efforts outlined above to improve order accuracy – and enjoy the positive benefits that will follow.
Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is an Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint is disrupting traditional market software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite Supplier Certification Management, which helps small to medium sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at [email protected].