How Is Everything?

What do you say when the waiter or manager at a restaurant comes up to the table and asks, “How is everything?”

You know what you say. Regardless of how the food tastes, you say, “It’s great!”

You do this for a few reasons:

  1. You know it’s the answer that he wants to hear.
  2. That is the answer that will make sure that he moves along.
  3. Even if you have something constructive to say, you don’t think it’ll make a difference.

I’m sure there are exceptions out there, but probably not many. I worked as a waiter several summers during college and am always on the lookout for signs of a good or bad dining experience, and yet I always say the same thing. “It’s great.”

Tonight this happened at a good restaurant. A great restaurant, in fact. I’m going to name it because my thoughts won’t negatively affect this restaurant at all, and they might just benefit from my advice. It’s called 1111 Mississippi, and it’s located…well, you can figure that out.

Both the waiter and the manager came up to the table during the meal and asked, “How is everything?” The waiter at least came to a complete stop before asking this question, while the manager (possibly the owner) said it while moving away past the table. The answer he wanted was clear, and he got it.

I asked Nancy if she could think of a question that would actually elicit potentially useful feedback from customers and engage them beyond the requisite “How is everything?” I was impressed–she came up with a fantastic answer right away:

“How can we improve?”

And not just ask this question, but have a notepad and a pen at ready when you ask it. That way people know that you’re truly interested in what they have to say.

Some people will not want the intrusion in their meal. It’s easy to give a short answer to this question. A good waiter/manager will recognize this, thank them, and move on immediately.

Others, however, will realize that they have something to say. The manager can take note of their comments, thank them for their feedback, and walk away.

The customer is not always right. However, they are always respected and always listened to. Always. By giving the customer permission to make suggestions, you make them feel valued and you create a memorable dining experience. And if you start to notice some patterns in the feedback you receive, you’ll be able improve your food/service/ambiance as well.

In addition, just so they end the meal on a positive note, put a business card next to their bill with a blank on the back preceeded by the question, “What was your favorite part of the meal?” They can jot something down and either keep it as a reminder of what they liked or pass it along to a friend.

If 1111 Mississippi is doing everything it can (and should) to value and engage customers, it will see this blog on their daily Google Alert and hopefully comment below. Let’s see what happens.