How to differentiate your independent restaurant and gain a competitive edge through customer service

Dec 5, 2023

In an evolving food service landscape marked by intense competition and higher operating costs, restaurants must innovate and adapt to distinguish themselves as exceptional. It’s not just about having a nice dining area or a great burger—it’s about ambiance, innovation, quality and perhaps above all else, service. Here are strategies that restaurants can employ to understand what customers want and deliver consistently exceptional experiences. For personalized advice from our team of food service experts, please contact us! We’d be glad to hear from you and discuss how to best support your needs and goals.

Embrace Personalized Dining Experiences

Offering personalized menu options that cater to a variety of dietary needs and preferences can be beneficial and make your establishment appeal to a wide range of community members. Consider adding items that are clearly identified as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or keto, for example. If you have regular customers who seek out these options, encourage your staff to remember their preferences and make them feel welcome. Even better: get to know their names! This will make them feel valued and help build loyalty. 

Implement Technology for Efficiency and Engagement

Convenience is key, and it adds value to your customer’s experience in your establishment. Be sure to implement technology such as online ordering and payment options for takeout and delivery, an online booking system for reservations and contactless payment options. The easier and more efficiently these tasks can be managed, the better for customers.

Prioritize Health and Safety

As we navigate a post-pandemic indoor dining environment, it’s important to maintain strong cleaning protocols and make these efforts visible to guests of your establishment. Not only is cleanliness expected from a reputable restaurant, it adds a measure of comfort while supporting the health and safety of your community. Clean often, clean well and keep records visibly posted in areas such as customer washrooms. 

Focus on Quality and Consistency

Your menu should be appealing, innovative, seasonal and well-executed at all times. Ensure that each and every dish that comes out of your kitchen meets the high standards of your establishment, and that the delivery of menu items is consistent night after night. Staff should be coached and trained appropriately to support these goals.

Offer Unique and Memorable Dining Experiences

In addition to special menus related to holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, consider hosting themed dining events or culinary workshops in your independent restaurant. You should also be updating your menu to reflect seasonal offerings in your region. Ideally, you’ll also promote the local growers and food producers who contributed to each dish! We also encourage independent restaurants to offer chef’s specials, as these dishes can be exciting for customers while helping you make use of surplus ingredients while they’re fresh and ready to serve.

Dynamic and Flexible Pricing

Everyone loves a deal, and special pricing is something that can keep your customers coming back for more. Consider offering happy hour and other special promotions—for example, weeknight deals, two-for-one appetizers on certain days of the week or during off-peak hours, or prix fixe options for multi-course dinner options. You can also implement loyalty programs that offer discounts and other perks. All of these actions can encourage repeat business—exactly what your business should be striving for. 

Sustainable and Ethical Practices

While this is somewhat adjacent to customer service, we see a connection between how your customers are treated and how they perceive you as treating the planet. Knowing this, let them know what your priorities are and how you strive to make a positive impact. Use locally-produced products and sustainable ingredients, implement practices to reduce food waste, compost and recycle materials and reduce paper waste in your restrooms by offering hand dryers and/or individual hand towels that can be laundered and re-used.

By adopting these strategies, restaurants can significantly enhance their customer experience, setting themselves apart in a competitive market. Morton Food Service is here to help, acting as part of your extended team and going above and beyond to help support your success. Please visit our website or contact us to learn more. We look forward to great things ahead!