Quality in the Restaurant Business
by Ron Kurtus (revised 12 January 2008)
Restaurants are in the business of serving food to their customers. In other words, they are providing a product (food) and a service (waiting on the customer).
The quality of the food and service is defined as meeting or exceeding the expectations of the customer as if promised by the restaurant. The food should be properly prepared and the service should be prompt and courteous.
The benefit of quality food and service is that customers will come back and will recommend the restaurant to friends.
Questions you may have include:
- What is quality food?
- What is quality service?
- What are the benefits of quality?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Quality of food
There is an artistry in the preparation of food. Some food can be prepared to be delicious, while another recipe can make a dish that is repugnant. Whether the food is a gourmet meal, a chocolate chip cookie or a hamburger, the recipe can make it a hit or a miss. But note that taste of the food is not the quality of the food.
The quality of a product is defined as whether it fulfills its stated and implied specifications. The customer expects the food to be what is promised on the menu, to be cooked and prepared properly, to be clean and to have the correct flavor. That is considered quality food.
Note that quality food does not mean healthy food or gourmet food. It is simply what was promised. If the customer sees an advertised picture of a delicious-looking bacon and eggs breakfast and then receives burnt crisps of bacon and undercooked eggs, he will not be getting what he ordered. It is not a quality meal, because it is not consistent with what is advertised.
When you eat at a McDonald's Restaurant, you can be assured that the quality of the food will be consistent in any McDonald's that you visit. It is what you expect and is considered quality food.
Quality of service
Not only are people buying a meal in a restaurant, but they are also paying for a certain level of service. Quality service is typically that which is prompt and courteous. That is what customers expect. Exceeding those expectations with extra service is a plus and can overshadow mediocre food.
I've been to a number of restaurants where the waiters and waitresses where not only friendly, but they were also entertaining. They might come up to your table and sing a song or play a musical instrument. The novelty of the extra service could bring in more business.
Some high-end restaurants have one waiter dedicated to one customer. That gives the customer a feeling of extreme service. Of course, the cost of the meal is higher to compensate for the extra staff.
Customers may accept poor service if the food is excellent. A famous example was the "Soup Nazi" episode on the Seinfeld television show where people lined up to have delicious soup in a specialty restaurant, but the owner was extremely rude and would refuse to serve those who did not abide by his rules. This was a take-off on an actual popular restaurant in New York City, where the soup was good but the owner was surly.
But poor service can also discourage many customers from returning, even if the food is good. Popularity can be fleeting in such a restaurant.
Service to select customers
Sometimes service is only given to select customers. For example, I was traveling across the country and stopped in a small restaurant in Wyoming for lunch. They catered much to the highway traffic. The waitress was slow and rude. She acted like she didn't like to be bothered. But of course, it was assumed that I would probably never stop in there again.
But then an old cowboy came in and sat at the counter next to me. The waitress immediately brightened up, smiled and asked if he wanted the special. He was a local and regular customer, and it was worth her while to give him good service.
A restaurant must seek to bring in customers and then satisfy them so they will return and will tell others about the place.
A major goal of a restaurant is to get in customers. Location and advertising are major factors in drawing in people. But the main way to be successful is through repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising. A restaurant that is out of the way and has no ads can still be quite successful through word-of-mouth advertising.
Repeat business and referrals come from customers being very satisfied by the quality of the food and service.
Case study of failures
The following are examples what happens when there is poor quality in a restaurant.
I recently went into a relatively new Thai restaurant near Milwaukee, Wisconsin that seemed to have good food when I had been there before. Unfortunately, this time the meal was only lukewarm instead of hot. Also, I found a piece of plastic in the food. Upon complaining to the manager, I received no apology. I never went back to that restaurant. Four months later, they went out of business.
Sambo's Pancake House in Santa Barbara, California had terrific food and great service. It was run by two local entrepreneurs. They had such success that they expanded the business and sold franchises around the United States. Soon, there were over 1400 Sambo's Restaurants.
Unfortunately, they did not seem to have the consistency of quality control that a chain such as McDonald's has. It was said that the quality of food and service dropped off proportional to the distance from Santa Barbara. Soon word got out that their food was terrible.
Adding to that perception of low quality were protests by civil rights groups in the 1970s that "black Sambo" was against African-Americans. This was unfounded since pictures of Sambo showed a boy from India with a tiger and was based on a classic children's tale. Protesters may have exaggerated the claims of low quality, resulting in the company losing much business.
Today, there is just one Sambo's—in Santa Barbara.
Restaurants provide a product (food) and a service (waiting on the customer). The quality of the food and service is defined as meeting or exceeding the expectations of the customer as if promised by the restaurant. The recipe and taste of the food is not the quality of preparation. The food should be properly prepared and the service should be prompt and courteous. The benefit of quality food and service is that customers will come back and will recommend the restaurant to friends.
A good meal with good service makes for a happy customer
Resources and references
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