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How to Communicate With Diners About Being Short-Staffed

October 14, 2021

Quality customer service is the heart of a restaurant’s reputation and success. The pandemic introduced an entirely new challenge to restaurant service: being short on staff. While the restaurant industry’s unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent in September, it is still above the pre-pandemic unemployment rate. No matter where your restaurant experiences being short on staff — whether in the kitchen, front of house, or elsewhere — guest’s perception of service is often affected, even if service isn’t the core challenge a restaurant faces. At CHEF’STORE, our goal is to provide you and your team with the resources to be successful. If you are faced with a restaurant labor shortage in your establishment, there are effective communication strategies that will keep your restaurant operating smoothly and patrons happy. 

The Best Communication Tools for Short-Staffed Restaurants

Restaurant patrons want to see that you care about their dining experience. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, from the quality of food all the way to the service they receive. Regardless of if your team is fully staffed or not, try using one or more of these techniques detailed here to keep customers happy, particularly while being short on staff. 

Be Honest with Patrons

Nothing frustrates customers more than having unrealistic expectations during their dining experience. If there is an estimated one-hour wait, communicate this with them in advance to be forthcoming and informative. The general rule of thumb is to provide a time range. This prevents diners from growing impatient if the estimated wait time initially provided comes and goes without word from the host or hostess. If you can, offer customers an appetizer or beverage while they wait and if you have a bar and space is available, suggest patrons sit at the bar while they wait for an available table.

Keep Diners Engaged During Long Waits

Keep a list of local shops, bars, and sites for customers to visit while they wait. Do not require them to remain at the restaurant if there is a long wait for a table. Instead, take their phone number and provide some local places for diners to explore until their table is ready. Restaurant beepers are another option, but they tend to have a limited range. Offering suggestions to places to visit while they wait will keep customers engaged and encourage them to support other local businesses. 

Add Technology 

Incorporating technology into your restaurant can streamline the process and help compensate for being understaffed. Allow diners to make reservations online in advance, order using a QR code at their table, and pay their bill online through an app or the restaurant’s website. Determine where to use technology to support your restaurant where employees are not available.

Use Customer Comment Cards

Customer comment cards provide patrons the opportunity to offer feedback on the food and service they received. This is a valuable tool for restaurant owners as they will know exactly what problems to address to give customers a better overall experience. It also gives customers the opportunity to feel like their feedback is being heard by restaurant management.

Address Problems When They Arise

When a patron brings a concern to you or a member of your staff’s attention, take immediate action. Apologize to the customer if the situation warrants it and determine how to address the problem. Never leave a patron with unresolved questions when a solution is in your hands. This will ensure the customer knows that you truly care about their dining experience.

Keep Existing Staff Happy

When you’re already short-staffed, the last thing you need is to lose even more workers. As an employer, you must have perks to keep existing staff happily employed. Increasing the base pay and prioritizing mental wellness are two key ways restaurant owners are better supporting their employees. 

Streamline Processes with High-Quality Restaurant Suppliers

Restaurant efficiency includes utilizing top-quality restaurant supplies. US Foods CHEF’STORE offers high-quality restaurant supplies that support every facet of your business needs. Everything from professional cleaning and sanitation supplies to fresh produce are conveniently found in our  restaurant supply store. Spend less time supplying your restaurant and more time focusing on enhancing day-to-day operations. 

Visit us online or at one of our many locations or to view our business tools that can help create a comprehensive package to address all of your restaurant’s unique needs.

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