As a company that is obsessed with customer feedback, a few years ago we upped the ante and designed a guest feedback survey from a company called Market Metrix that is emailed to every hotel guest that we have, at every hotel we own when they check out. Gathering feedback in both a restaurant and hotel is extremely important. My service and kitchen staff are trained to asses a guests needs, and exceed them, with every interaction possible. I work really hard to teach staff (especially servers) the different things to look for, and personally try to see food "going and coming" (leaving the kitchen, and returning to the dish pit) as much as possible. Seeing plates come off of the dinning room floor can be a really, really, good tool to asses what people are eating, and more importantly what they aren't. Why didn't the finish that? Portion too big? Not what they wanted? etc. I can flag a problem find a server and make it right. Sometimes I will just walk into the dinning room, approach the table in question and fire up a conversation. At any cost we need the dinning experience to be fantastic. If I can head that problem off at the front, and solve it I can prevent that customer from leaving with a bad taste in their mouth. Not to mention the bad PR that can come from a bad meal- online forums, emailed complaints, blogs, travel website reviews, and person to person conversation. Even the best restaurants deal with these issues. Food is tough- people have different expectations, and different tastes. Also those expectations seem to multiply with the amount of money spent. The best meal of one persons life is barely palatable for someone else. No matter who you are I want you to have a great experience, and if you don't, I want to know so I can fix it.
Our market metrix surveys allow a guest to give us instant faceless feedback. People will say things in that forum that they would never say to your face. While comment cards in the guest check book are helpful they are rarely filled out, and when they are it is more often then not positive feedback. Of course that is great, but if you only hear the good, and you know that that bad is happening you miss the point. The survey is broken down into about 10 questions regarding your dinning experience with me. Wait time to be seated, attentiveness of server, handling of reservations, quality of food, presentation of food, handling of dietary restrictions, quality of beverage, wine pairing recommendation, attractive and enjoyable atmosphere, and overall value in your meal. A guest can only answer less than expected, as expected, or better than expected for each one and then has a opportunity to leave some comments as well. This system allows me to get more feedback than I know what to do with. The surveys from the previous week are emailed to me as attachments and I can really asses any sort of problem we are having. Emergency guest issues are emailed instantly for an even quicker response. It isn't odd for me to receive 10 emails with 10 surveys attached every few days. If there are food issues, and lets face it some times the anonymity of the Internet causes people to say things that they would never ever say to someones face, I try to respond as soon as I can, personally from my email at work. The goal here is not to offer something for free though, although sometimes we do that as well, but it is usually taken care of by one of our Front of House managers. It is more important to these guests that I made an effort to remedy the situation. A email from a chef who not only responded to your issues, but also saw them and is making the required changes to remedy the situation is way more than most people expect. It opens a line of communication between them and I, and in turn builds a relationship that will ideally make them want to return again. Never fill out any sort of survey like this thinking it will only be seen by a few people, recently I received a comment card that suggested "the chef should be fired". The companies that will send you surveys like this are serious about customer service. Every single one we receive is seen by every manager, and then many are posted offering positive encouragement for our staff. Servers named by name can be recognized for their efforts, or the whole team for providing an exceptional service for someone.
While dealing with customer feedback is never easy, it is a "gift" a customer has given you. We have decided to do as much and get as much feedback as we possibly can. Heading off an issue directly is the best way, a good restaurant will solve your issue on the spot so if you are out and having a problem tell someone. If your server is any good they may already know. If you are uncomfortable with that then find an email address or telephone number and call to talk to someone. I care about this stuff, good restaurants take this very seriously. The information is so valuable. A restaurant can not fix what they don't know is broken, so give them the opportunity to do it.