How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Hosted by Monti Carlo

Take it from restaurant guru Monti Carlo: These bare-minimum hospitality practices set the stage for diners to enjoy a pleasant meal at any eatery.

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1: A Welcoming Staff from the Very Beginning

Here’s what I love about hosts that greet you with a withering look: nothing. Being greeted with a genuine smile sets the stage for your entire experience.

2: Consistent, Frequent Service

Optimists aren’t the only ones who see their water glass half full. You do too, throughout your entire meal if you’re dining in a restaurant that takes greatness seriously.

3: Careful Attention to All Details

Spots are for leopards and crumbs are for birds. Attention to detail and a clean, spotless table are a must, especially when it comes to glassware, silverware and dishware.

4: An Appropriate Noise Level

It makes me so happy when I don’t have to shout at my partner in dine for him or her to hear me over the “ambiance.” (Unless my dining companion eats the last bread roll without sharing, which brings me to No. 5. )

5: Exciting Pre-Dinner Nibbles

When the meal starts with warm, fresh artisanal bread with an amazing olive oil or a beautiful compound butter that’s been left at room temperature so it melts with just one look . sigh. This is my moment of dining room zen.

6: Knowledgeable Servers

If I want an hour of no one having any answers, I can just watch the news. A well-informed staff that knows the menu inside and out, and can guide me through my choices, tells me I’m in for something good.

7: Relaxed Yet Efficient Service

Obviously the food should be #WONDERFUL, but it should also be well-timed. Meals should arrive in courses so the table never looks like a trough. The courses should also be complete. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for your fellow diner’s plate of food to make it to the table while yours sits right in front of you. It’s enough to throw me into an existential crisis: #ShouldIWait?! #DoIStartWithoutThem?! #WasMyExRight?! #AmISelfish?!

8: A Staff That Takes Responsibility

I don’t want to feel like I’m in a bad relationship if something is wrong with my food. Mistakes happen, but a great server doesn’t give a laundry list of excuses or push blame; she apologizes and fixes it ASAP.

9: Time to Eat a Meal in Peace

Ice Cube famously said: “Today was a great day. I didn’t even have to use my AK.” That’s exactly how I feel when I don’t have to shoo away a busser every few minutes. #YesIAmStillWorkingOnIt #SHEESH

10: Tidy Restrooms

You know that wave of relief that washes over you when your Tinder date actually looks like his picture? That’s how it should feel when you open up the bathroom door at a fine establishment. #SoFreshAndSoCleanClean

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How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

How to Give Your Restaurant Guests a Great Dining Experience

As a starting point, let’s agree we are not in the restaurant business. Nope, we are in the hospitality business.

If the restaurant business was about competing only on the food we prepared and sold, we would be competing with a gas station. And a breakfast place would be competing with a steakhouse.

The thing that allows you to differentiate yourself is to offer the dining experience your diners expect.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Food is a major part of what we do and one Italian restaurant is directly competing with another Italian restaurant, etc. But we need to first understand what our jobs are and how we can use service to separate ourselves from the masses.

Our job is to execute on the promise of Restaurant 101 first and foremost. Delivering on this promise means giving our guests a clean, safe environment to dine, great food and “WOW” customer service. Assuming your place is clean, safe and you put out great food, your focus needs to turn to providing a WOW customer service experience. Service is what separates you from the mass of independent and chain restaurants all around you.

What does it mean to deliver great service? Is that different from delivering on the promise of great hospitality? Some say the difference is in semantics, but we believe there is a difference in the meaning of hospitality and service here at Restaurant Systems Pro.

Great service is the execution of the steps of service on a shift-by-shift basis. It’s introducing yourself at the table when you take an order. It’s checking back in three minutes after the food has been delivered to a table to see if everything is good. It’s making sure drinks are refilled in a timely basis.

Provide great hospitality

Great hospitality is an extension of great service, taking it to another level.

Here at Restaurant Systems Pro, hospitality is a great dining experience that goes far beyond great food and great service. A truly great dining experience is when our guest’s needs are anticipated and met for them, resulting in 100 percent satisfaction. It’s to always strive to make every moment memorable.

The key word is memorable.

Great hospitality is about making each guest’s dining experience memorable. The part that isn’t so apparent in that statement is that YOU don’t make a dining experience memorable; the people a guest is dining with do. For something to really stick, it has to be anchored to a feeling. For example, when I would hire new employees in my restaurants, I wanted to make sure they had the same love of food and the restaurant business he did. As a young chef I was sure that by creating incredible food I would do exactly that. I just needed to find people who wanted to deliver on service to match my commitment to food.

When I interviewed people I would ask them to tell me about their favorite food memories. I expected I would hear about incredible service and an equally incredible restaurant. But that’s not what I got. Instead I got answers like, “a hot dog with my grandpa at my first baseball game,” “grandma’s apple pie at Thanksgiving dinner,” and the list went on. None of the stories were about a restaurant; they were about an experience with someone where a memory was created.

What I learned is great food alone did not create a memory. If my team delivered WOW customer service, it alone did not create a memory. In fact, it was less about me and my team and more about the guest and who they were dining with. It was the team anticipating the needs of their guests — and never breaking the connection the diners had together — that could make the experience memorable.

Hospitality in practice

To do this effectively takes small things that should go unnoticed. For example, I referred to a few examples of steps of service earlier. Here is how they would be executed with hospitality in mind.

When the server introduces himself or herself at the table, it isn’t, “Hi, my name is,” when they first greet a table. It’s about connecting with the guest first, finding something at the table to start a bonding conversation, such as noticing a shopping bag and saying, “Oh, I love that store, too.” After the server makes a connection with the guests, explains the menu and takes their drink order, the server starts to leave the table, turns back and says, “Oh, by the way, my name is David, and I will take care of you tonight.”

Then instead of checking back in three minutes after the food has been delivered and asking my least favorite question in the hospitality business, “Is everything ok?,” (because we strive to make your dining experience ok?) it’s about asking specific questions, such as is your steak cooked to the perfect temperature or isn’t the shrimp scampi to die for?

Another example is drink refills. Don’t interrupt the guests to ask if they want a refill. Drop a new one off anytime the drink is a quarter full and remove the old one.

See, great hospitality is an extension of great service, it’s the art of making sure your guests’ needs are anticipated and met for them before they ever have to notice things are not right or they need something. This allows them to create memories with the people they are with. And when that happens, your restaurant is the place they remember because when they dine with you, they always have the best time.

There’s nothing more magical than a trip to Disney World—the castles, the fairytales, the thrills, your favorite animated stars come to life. But as prices rise with every passing year, it’s become one of the most costly vacations a family, couple, or group of friends can take. How to make the hit to your bank account hurt a little less? Follow these 12 cost-saving tips for visiting Disney on a budget.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

DO stay on property

Some might argue that Disney’s hotels are pricey, but you get far more from them than just the room you sleep in. Complimentary around-the-clock shuttles to every Disney park mean zero parking and rental car fees—not to mention easy access to Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, when certain parks open earlier or stay open longer on select days. And, while “value” hotels like Pop Century and All-Star Movies may not be the most glamorous options (we’re looking at you, Grand Floridian), they get the job done. Want something even cheaper? Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is an adventurous and wallet-friendly alternative. An added perk: Magic Bands—convenient electronic bracelets that serve as your ticket to parks, rides, and even your hotel room—are free when you stay at a Disney resort. While not required, if you are still interested in getting them but choose to stay outside park boundaries, they’ll cost you.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World for Visit Florida

DO buy tickets up front

It pays—literally—to plan ahead. Every extra day you spend inside a Disney park cuts dollars off park admission as a whole. Current regular admission rates start at $109 per person (ages 10+) for a single-park day pass, but stay three days and that price per day drops to $105. Stay four days and it drops to $101. Stay five days and it drops to $83….you get the picture. Also, if you already know you’re headed to Disney in the coming year, don’t wait to buy. The parks rack up their entrance fees every year, so if you plan ahead, you can invest before those increases take effect.

DO visit during non-peak times

Holidays, while festive, are a disaster when it comes to crowds and cash. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Spring Break, basically all of summer—avoid them if you can. Single-park admission prices during peak times begin at $117 pre-tax ($159 between Christmas and New Year’s), whereas if you visit during a “Value” window, rates stabilize at $109. Mid-January to early March and late August through the end of September usually provide the best deals. And, of course, visiting during the week is FAR cheaper than on a weekend (especially Saturdays, which jump up to $128+ during the summer and $139 come fall). This calendar can help you track costs and see which days Disney designates as “Peak” verses “Value.”

DO shop around

Discounts can be hard to come by—unless you know where to look. Undercover Tourist and Mouse Savers are two great resources for tracking limited-time sales on tickets, hotels, and vacation packages. If you work for a large company, look into whether they offer benefits for taking a Disney World trip.

DO take advantage of free activities

Disney World is its own small universe, and there’s far more to be discovered beyond just the parks themselves. Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the more luxurious places to stay at Disney World, but even non-hotel guests are free to walk around the property and see if they can spot resident zebra, giraffe, gazelle, and flamingoes. Traveling with a couple of night owls? Campfire sing-alongs with Chip ‘n’ Dale (s’mores included) capped by an outdoor screening of a Disney movie are held every night at Fort Wilderness—no reservations required. And Disney Springs is a whole world of its own, with shops, restaurants, and shows for all ages. A free boat ride sails guests from one side of the boardwalk to the other. Don’t miss popping into The Lego Store, home to hands-on play tables and gigantic models of Disney characters.

Check out these 5 little ways to delight guests at your restaurant and create the best possible experience.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

In the restaurant industry (and in everyday life), it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. When guests visit your restaurant, they are looking for more than great food; they are also expecting to have an enjoyable, stress-free experience. The staff, the decor, and the atmosphere play a significant role in determining how guests feel about their experience when they leave. If you want to delight guests and keep them coming back time and time again, you have to pay attention to the little things that can have a major impact on the overall guest experience.

Here are six simple ways to drastically improve the guest experience at your restaurant.

Guide to the Restaurant Guest

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Proper Training

Each employee is a representation of your brand. It’s imperative that all employees receive proper training on the importance of customer care. Staff members should be trained to pay attention to little things like looking customers in the eye, to avoid referring to guests as “you guys,” and smiling and greeting guests as they arrive. These things may not seem like a big deal, but smiling and eye contact have been found to generate positive feelings like respect, trust, and support. Managers should pay close attention to how each staff member interacts with guests and make a point of reiterating certain customer care objectives during pre-shift meetings.

Attentiveness

The best servers can recognize guest needs before they ask for them. Even during a rush, servers should learn to anticipate requests. The best service often goes unnoticed and, according to Matthew Greenberg, the former maitre’d at 2-star Michelin restaurant Melisse, “. anticipating your guests’ needs is the difference between good service and great service (FSR Magazine).” Bringing extra napkins, an extra plate for sharing dishes, promptly refilling water glasses – all of these things require very little effort and only a general level of attentiveness, but they can vastly improve the guest experience. When your staff is attentive to guests’ needs, guests can focus on the food and their company rather than on tracking down the server.

Cleanliness

This might be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants overlook the importance of keeping everything clean. When the bathroom is dirty or fingerprints are left on the windows, it can send the wrong message to guests. If the restaurant doesn’t pay attention to aspects of their establishment’s general cleanliness, what does that say to guests about the kitchen area and the staff? Make sure to pay attention to the little details as they can make a big difference in the way guests perceive the quality of food and experience. According to a study conducted by Technomic, many diners rank the cleanliness of a restaurant as important as the taste and quality of the food.

Updating your dining room doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We have 17 easy fixes that will add major drama for very little cash.

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Slip Into Something More Comfortable

There’s no quicker dining room fix than slipcovers. In a pinch, you can revamp your space with the seasons or whenever you need a change of scenery. Look for machine-washable slipcovers that can easily be cleaned when spills happen.

Hang a Chandelier

Make your lighting the focal point of the dining room for a budget-friendly and easy upgrade. With chandeliers, the more dramatic the better. Want even more impact? Choose a lighting fixture in a bold color.

Wake Up Your Walls

The dining room can be the most fun room in the house with a wall or four of an eye-catching wallpaper. Scared of the commitment? Temporary wallpaper comes in a variety of colors, textures and designs for an easily interchangeable look.

Add Some Floating Shelves

Floating shelves add an interesting element to this farmhouse dining room for relatively cheap. Put your most-prized dishware and collections front and center with this airy look.

Mix It Up

Who says your dining room chairs all have to match? It’s often cheaper to buy one or two chairs at a time, so you can save cash while you curate your collection of mismatched chairs. Want to save even more? Grab your chairs from a thrift or antique store.

Put Out Your Best Dishware

Is Grandma’s china collecting dust in a box somewhere? Turn it into functional art by putting it on display in your dining room. There’s no need to spend on art when you’ve already got a beautiful collection of plateware begging to be seen.

Add a Bench or Two

Benches are an easy design element to incorporate into a dining room for maximum impact. These wooden benches pair nicely with the leather chairs in this masculine space.

Go All In on One Color

Using different shades of the same color is an age-old trick to create depth in any room. This dining room blends modern and traditional elements with multiple shades of blue for a cohesive design.

Implement Wainscoting

A staple of traditional homes, wainscoting can upgrade any dining room into a stunner. There’s no need for a full remodel when this classic design element is added to walls. Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, it can amp up the style in any room.

Accentuate With Fun Furniture

Have fun with your accent furniture for an easy dining room update. This traditional dining room was pretty before, but the bright pink accent chair made it stunning. Adding just one interesting piece can instantly upgrade your space.

Add Some Bookshelves

Whether they’re built-in or freestanding, bookshelves are an unexpected focal point for a dining room. Display your collections to give your guests something to talk about other than your delicious cooking. The moody color of these shelves makes the colorful books pop out for an eye-catching accent piece.

Make a Statement With Seating

An attention-grabbing piece of dining room furniture, like this red beauty, is all you need to turn your dining room into the most talked about room in the house. Your other rooms might just become jealous.

Get Creative With Upholstery

Updating seat cushions is a simple and effective way to bring a new look to your dining room. Pick a fabric that brings you joy, and the dining room will always be your happy place. The best part? HGTV has a tutorial on how to upholster seats on your own to cut costs.

Cut a Rug

Who said living rooms were the only place for a show-stopping rug? Rugs come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s something to fit any space. Have fun with colors, textures and prints for an easy update to your dining room.

Create a Gallery Wall

Have a large collection of art? Put it to use by building a gallery wall in your dining room. Mixing up the sizes and types of art creates interest and dimension. The spacing of a gallery wall can be tricky, so be sure to plan it all out before the first nail goes into the wall.

Chalk It Up

A chalkboard or chalkboard paint are easy ways to add a fun and thrifty element to a modern dining room. What better way to utilize it than sharing tonight’s menu with your family and guests?

Score Some Vintage Artwork

Want to make an artful impact without breaking the bank? Vintage art and signs are often a fraction of the cost of brand-new art. This vintage sign perfectly matches the industrial vibe of this neutral-colored dining room.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

The dining scene is more competitive than ever, which makes it vital to improve the customer experience at restaurants.

A better customer experience means a higher customer retention rate. A 2017 Deloitte report showed that a positive experience will encourage 60 percent of guests to be more frequent customers at a restaurant.

It also means more revenue and better customer reviews. A Salesforce survey revealed that 67 percent of customers will pay more for a great experience.

The benefits of a better experience are hard to ignore, and restaurateurs need to employ new methods to get more revenue and repeat customers.

Specifically, there are three major areas where restaurants can make changes to improve the way it provides a dining experience to customers:

  • Have an Engaging Staff
  • Personalize the Experience
  • Utilize and Generate Customer Reviews

Have an Engaging Staff

The foundation for a top-notch dining experience is a top-notch staff that is highly engaged and committed to delivering that experience. This operational mindset makes every single staff member feel valued and even more invested in delivering a great customer experience.

Just how important is engagement? Consider this: the Deloitte study mentioned above surveyed diners and found five “experiential factors” that restaurant goers ask for:

  • Engage Me
  • Empower Me
  • Hear Me
  • Delight Me
  • Know Me

Deloitte then asked diners to allocate 100 points among the five factors. With 34 points, the most important factor was “Engage Me.” However, only an average of 46 percent of diners were either “very or extremely satisfied” with a restaurant’s and staff’s overall engagement efforts.

To increase that satisfaction percentage, restaurateurs will need to create an engaging staff, and that starts with creating different engagement approaches. This could be in the form of an internal mentorship program, which bridges the gap between veterans and new hires while also providing a more intimate channel for feedback. You can also hold team-building activities, special events, or even encourage them to provide suggestions on how to improve different parts of the restaurant experience.

Having these methods in place show that you care and value each employee. That investment in their well-being is then reciprocated in their interaction with customers, which is now highly motivated thanks to your active engagement.

Personalize the Experience

Any restaurant can have great food, but a major factor that separates great restaurants from the rest is the personalized experience for each customer.

A 2016 OpenTable survey revealed that 95 percent of diners would return to a restaurant “if the staff catered specifically to their personal preferences.” In addition, 70 percent want to see a similar personalized dining experience at a casual restaurant.

There are a number of ways to make every diner feel at home at a restaurant. Wait staff can address each diner by name or make suggestions for dishes based on someone’s dietary restrictions. You can also remember the drink orders of returning customers.

How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

The Deloitte study revealed that the main factor in a diner’s restaurant experience is engagement. Personalization efforts drive this process home by setting a tone of familiarity and increased value for every customer.

Utilize and Generate Customer Reviews

Restaurant reviews are influential to 55.5 percent of consumers , which shows just how important it is to gather and respond to reviews . High-quality reviews also mean a better ranking and exposure on local listings like Google or Yelp , but the main benefit of reviews may be that they provide incredible customer experience data.

A great example of this data in action involves the restaurant chain Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries . By reading and analyzing customer review data, the communication team found that waiters and waitresses took too long to greet customers after they sat down at their tables, which became a major source of negative reviews.

With review data, the company was able to find hidden pain points in the customer experience, which allowed the company to implement improvements in its staff training and onboarding efforts.

Reviews are so valuable for customer experience data because they provide “unstructured data” where the customer can say anything they want, and they provide the most accurate feedback that isn’t affected by the same structural biases that impact satisfaction surveys. Food service companies with the right tools can analyze the text of all their reviews to find trends and highlight recurring negative or positive keywords.

A Better Restaurant Starts with Improved Customer Experience

The foundation for increased customer retention and revenue starts with creating a great dining experience. An experience that 10x better than the competition will be noticed by customers who will write reviews and promote the restaurant far better than your own marketing efforts.

By maintaining and improving the experience any restaurant can beat out the local competition and have customers lining up outside the building just to get a seat.

It is often the little details that customers recall even more than the product they purchased or the service they received. Little details that customers notice, and that makes them feel good about not only making the purchase, but making the purchase from you, is a significant part of the overall customer experience. Here are six ways to go above and beyond good customer service and boost customer loyalty.

    Attentiveness
    New York restaurateur Danny Meyer is a master of detail, and his employees are trained to notice, and when appropriate act on, even the tiniest scraps of information they observe or discover about a guest. If you happen to mention when making a reservation that it’s a birthday dinner, the manager will make it a point to come to the table and extend Danny’s birthday wishes to the appropriate person. If a staff member overhears a conversation in which one of the guests mentions they either like or dislike something, within minutes, everyone who might come into contact with that guest knows about it. And they tailor your food accordingly, too.

For those to whom attentiveness is important, the experience one has when dining at any of his restaurants is a pleasure that is second to none. It’s no wonder that his restaurants regularly battle with each other for top ranking in the “Most Popular” list on the Zagat guide. His book, Setting the Table, is a treasure trove of wonderful business lessons that all businesses could model in one way or another, and it’s a great read to boot.
Recognition
Greeting your customer by name is a very meaningful and treasured detail that adds greatly to the way they experience doing business with you. If your office works by appointment, the receptionist should make sure he knows just who will be walking in the door next, and immediately greet them with eye contact, a smile and “Good morning, are you Mr. Morgan?” if she isn’t sure if it’s Mr. Morgan, or simply, “Good morning Mr. Morgan” if he is. One of the things a friend of mine always mentions when talking about her plastic surgeon is, “I love going there because they always know who I am and are happy to see me.”

There is nothing more flattering, there is nothing that makes someone feel more special than receiving a warm, friendly greeting by name when walking into a place of business.
Personalization
Don’t we all have a story about the coffee shop waitress who doesn’t ever need to be told how we like our iced tea, or the diner where the cook starts to make the same thing you always order the minute he sees you walk in the door? The salesperson who sends gifts in pink because she remembers that’s your favorite color. The florist who never puts a particular flower in an arrangement because they remember it makes you sneeze or the wine shop that calls you when a certain vintage comes in because they know you’re partial to it. These experiences add value, and they also instill an enormous amount of loyalty.

Is there anything you and your staff can do to ensure your customers know that you not only pay attention to their preferences, but remember them and cater to them for each and every transaction?
Consideration
Do you or your staff regularly walk customers to the door and open it for them as they’re leaving? Do you or your employees regularly help customers carry their purchases to their car, particularly “women of a certain age” or anyone who appears frail or a bit unsteady on their feet? If you have a waiting room and some of your clientele are older, do you have chairs that are a bit higher than usual and have arms on them so they are easier to get in and out of?

When customers buy something that includes an outside component that’s integral to its use or makes it more user-friendly, do you ask if they have that thing or if they still have enough of it left? For example, if you sell birthday cakes, do you have candles to go with it? If you have a pediatric dental practice, do you have a little stepstool in the bathroom so the child can reach the sink? If you have a business that makes keys, do you have something that could be put on the key to identify it so the customer will always remember what the key is for?
Appreciation
What do you do to show your customers, your clients or your patients that you appreciate them? After all, there are probably several other businesses that do what you do. Do you show the customers who choose to patronize you that you value and appreciate their business? Feeling appreciated is an experience that is universally meaningful.

You could invite special customers to a sale a day earlier than the general public or you could have an invitation-only event one evening and give “VIPs” an additional X percent discount. You could gift-wrap their packages or periodically give them that thing they often buy for free. If you’re product is a service, offer a free check-up.

Always be sure to let them know that you are extending this extra to them because they are a valued customer and you want to show them that you appreciate them. And one of the easiest and most overlooked ways to show them appreciation is to send a handwritten note on lovely stationary.

  • Delight
    Put a smile on their face and in their heart. You can do something special for their child, their parent, their pet. Make them laugh, thank them in a showy way for a major purchase, have a contest or a drawing for something fun that they could share with family and friends. Serve warm, freshly baked cookies in your office, give their child a bunch of balloons, offer a nice snack mid-afternoon.
  • The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
    Meaningful, memorable, fun, unusual and unexpected experiences influence the way customers perceive you in general and feel about you in particular. These little details are so easy to overlook, so tempting to brush off as unimportant. But add a number of seemingly minor details together, and you end up with something of far more value than you would without them.

    It’s the little details that keep a customer coming back over and over, it’s the little details that cause a customer to rationalize paying more because she feels she is getting more, it’s the little details that keep people talking about you and recommending everyone they know to you.

    Anyone can do the big things right; it’s the little things that differentiate one business from another and that influence customers to choose one over the other. Often, small-business owners cut out the little details when times get tough, and this is a big mistake. Attentiveness and recognition cost nothing, nor do personalization and consideration.

    3 Outdoor Dining Tips To an Enhance the Customer Experience for Restaurants

      Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

    As foodservice continues to evolve, one demand remains consistent with nice weather: outdoor dining. For many restaurants, the outdoor dining season can double, even triple, the amount of dining space offered to customers. While it is an enticing feature for both restaurant staff and customers, offering a good outdoor dining experience requires careful planning, adjustments to staff and the ability to quickly correct when obstacles arise. Here are three outdoor dining tips to enhance the customer experience.

    1. Prioritize Safety

    Although outdoor dining is removed from the literal restaurant, it is still an extension of your business and requires the same level of attention to safety. The outdoors can provide a host of new challenges such as:

    • Weather conditions: Do you have an overhang to protect customers from rain? Do you have a rapid move-in plan should inclimate weather suddenly appear? Is your patio properly maintained to account for precipitation?
    • Electrical equipment: Are your POS systems and lighting fixtures built to withstand outdoor conditions? Are all potential electrical contact areas properly protected?
    • Compliance: Are your outdoor dining layout, exits and entrances designed with disabled and the elderly in mind? Is your layout ADA compliant?

    Keeping customers safe on your patio comes down to what is within your restaurant’s control, and that means reinforcing safety measures among your employees. Safety is not a box to check but a matter of maintenance. A patio can turn into a danger zone due to spillage, leftover rain, misplaced objects and more.

    2. Match Your System to the Space & Capacity

    Designing an exceptional outdoor dining environment goes well beyond aesthetic elements, requiring proper attention to detail in regards to the flow of service and the overall customer experience. Whether creating a brand new outdoor space or looking to upgrade your current one, it advisable to plan the layout with both customers and employees in mind.

    A proper outdoor dining system should allow for an unobtrusive dining experience as well as enable your employees to provide the best possible service to outdoor patrons. Considerations for creating and implementing an outdoor dining system include:

    • Entrances and exits: Patrons should be able to transition from arriving to waiting to dining to departing smoothly. Is your patio self-seat? If not, is it clear through signage and available hosting? Is there a designated waiting area? Can an outdoor customer leave, whether to depart or visit the restroom, in a self-explanatory manner that does not interfere with guests or staff?
    • Equipment placement: If your establishment staff includes servers, do they have the equipment placed in a way that sets them up for optimal service delivery? If a POS or server station is available outside, is it in the way? Are any designated outdoor locations for money storage properly protected from theft?
    • Kitchen & food management: Is your kitchen prepared to handle the influx of more customer orders at one time given the extended customer accommodations? Whether its extra staff or kitchen modifications, make sure to address this change in order demand. Sometimes pushing more easily prepared items through sales or limited menus can also account for this.
    • When it comes to delivering the food, are there proper routes and staff in place to get outdoor customers hot food in a safe manner?
    • Cleaning and bussing: Garbage containers and stations for any dishes or cutlery should be strategically placed in a way that doesn’t encroach on customers’ space yet allows for a quick and proper turnover of clean dining areas.
    • Providing comfort: In addition to having comfortable furniture that adheres to the elements, are your outdoor patrons spaced out in a way that offers as much privacy as possible and room to enjoy themselves? Keep in mind things like shade, wind and other outdoor factors that may cause discomfort.

    3. Review & Adjust for Next Year

    A restaurant’s success depends on its volume, and while outdoor dining will significantly increase that volume, it’s important to prepare for the stressors that may come along with it. Like any facet of food and customer service, unforeseen issues can arise outside of your control, so it’s important to monitor not only your customers’ experiences, but those of your staff. There is always room for improvement within any system, and an outdoor dining process, especially if tied to seasonality, will have its share of areas to increase efficiency and solve problems.

    Society Insurance is Here to Help Your Bar or Restaurant Operate Safely

    Society Insurance is dedicated to providing industry-leading restaurant and bar insurance. Your business is your livelihood, and we do all we can to help you protect it. Talk to your local Society Insurance agent about your insurance coverage options.

    Here are some ideas for inexpensive activities

    New Orleans on a Budget

    You don’t have to be a big spender to jump into a million-dollar New Orleans experience. The Crescent City can be easy on the wallet, if you know where to look. From happy hour specials to hidden gems, there are affordable options all over town, no matter what the season. Check out our neighborhood itinerary below, or explore our inexpensive dining options here.

    How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

    The French Quarter

    This most historic part of New Orleans is famous for its white tablecloth restaurants, artsy boutiques, and craft cocktail bars. But you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the French Quarter.

    Breakfast – Start your day with some chicory-laced coffee and pastry from Croissant D’Or Patisserie. Or treat yourself to a plate of hot beignets and café au lait from Café du Monde.

    Follow your feet – Take a stroll through the picturesque French Quarter to see some of the most historic architecture in the country, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytère and Cabildo. Visit the Visitor Center of Jean Lafitte National Park and get free information and maps.

    Ogle art – Window shop along Royal Street, famous for art galleries galore and soak up New Orleans’ local art culture.

    How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

    Explore Jackson Square – Take a peek into the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, then claim a bench on the square and people watch.

    Picnic Lunch – Order a traditional Italian muffuletta from the place where it was invented, Central Grocery, and take your sandwich to the river for lunch with a view.

    Dine on the cheap – Port of Call is a great choice for a burger and potent Monsoon cocktail, or swing by Killer Po-Boys for some creative takes on the traditional New Orleans sandwich.

    How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

    Drinks – Stroll along world-famous Bourbon Street and right into Pat O’Brien’s courtyard for a hurricane. Head to the “quieter” end of Bourbon and belly up to the bar at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for inexpensive libations. Located on Bourbon and St. Phillip St., Lafitte’s is lit mostly by candles and is supposedly haunted. In the mood for artisanal cocktails? Swing over to Bar Tonique across from Armstrong Park on Rampart chose from a menu of reasonably priced classic New Orleans cocktails.

    Arts/Warehouse District

    Enjoy a day of gallery hopping in the Warehouse District, one of the hottest developing neighborhoods in town.

    How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

    Ogden Museum of Art – This museum is home to the most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world and offers free and discounted admission for students, seniors, and more.

    Picnic in the park – Lafayette Square is the second oldest park in New Orleans. Pick up a sandwich from Cafe at the Square or Cochon Butcher and picnic in the square.

    The Contemporary Arts Center – Known for its experimental and multidisciplinary exhibitions, performances and programs, the CAC is the perfect place to take in thought provoking work by local and internationally known artists at a reasonable price.

    Happy Hour – Happy hour dishes the best bargains and small plates and drinks in the Warehouse Arts District. Check out Meril for happy hour deals with half-off flat breads and wine by the glass.

    Uptown/ Garden District

    Known for stately oaks and historic mansions, shopping on Magazine Street and eclectic restaurants, Uptown delivers a surprising array of well-priced options.

    How to have a great dining experience (the budget-friendly way)

    Take a ride – Hop on the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue. Riding the oldest continuously operated streetcar in the country is your best way to soak up views of live oaks and one-of-a-kind mansions and costs just $1.25, exact change please, or buy a one-day, three-day or five-day pass.

    Breakfast – Camellia Grill is a landmark diner Uptown known for its rib-sticking breakfasts and entertaining servers. Grab a seat at the counter and enjoy the show.

    Audubon Park – Go for a ramble under the leafy canopies of gorgeous oaks in Audubon Park, then relax in one of the covered gazebos and watch the ducks.

    Lunch – Grab a sandwich or salad from St. James Cheese Company, a local cheese shop with a seriously loyal following. Or swing by Pizza Domenica, the casual off-shoot of the James Beard Award-winning Italian restaurant downtown.

    Happy Hour – Sip on delicious cocktails at Cure, a pioneering craft cocktail lounge on happening Freret Street uptown with terrific happy hour deals (4-6 p.m. every day).

    Dinner and Drinks – Freret Street is also up-and-coming for the restaurant and bar scene with eateries like The Company Burger and High Hat Cafe sure to satisfy the hungry on a budget.

    Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge

    If you really want to experience New Orleans like a local, spend a day in Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge for some off the beaten path bargains.