Guest recovery should be one of a restaurant’s highest priorities right now. In fact, it has probably never been more important.

Unfortunately, amidst the current pandemic, it is also harder to achieve than ever.

With more people dining at home rather than on-premise, restaurants are already suffering from a thinner customer base. Therefore it’s critical that restaurants hone in their efforts on the loyal customers who have remained, or they could lose even more. If guests are potentially risking their health to eat at a restaurant, they need to be taken care of.

Despite the unique challenges of today, guest recovery is achievable with the right understanding of customers’ expectations. For example, restaurants should understand that patrons expect a sanitary environment in accordance with CDC guidelines when they eat out.

In the mind of the customer, cleanliness is no longer a preference or something that’s nice to have. It’s a necessity that could literally mean life or death. Knowing this, prepared restaurants will help create a safe environment for guests and avoid problems.

Unfortunately, restaurants will never live up to every customer’s expectations no matter what precautions they take.

So now more than ever, it’s crucial that there is always a way for consumers to provide feedback that is immediately actionable regardless of whether they are sitting inside your four walls or at their home.

Below we’ll cover:

  • The omnichannel world and guest feedback
  • Employee training; where they’re at now and reaching their potential
  • Why people don’t give feedback: annoyance, awkwardness and action
  • How to handle guest recovery: awareness, acknowledgement, apology, action and additional generosity

Also, if you find that you could use some extra help, our team at Ovation would be happy to chat and show you how we can help you to automate the hard parts of the guest experience.

Omnichannel World

With more options becoming available everyday as to how someone can receive their food from a restaurant, restaurants need to get creative with ways to intercept and grab their customers’ attention in order to get their feedback.

Whether it’s online ordering with to-go, inside pick-up, curb-side pick-up, delivery from the restaurant itself or 3rd party deliveries, restaurants need to find ways to interact with their customers.

Restaurants need to meet the customer where they are to find out how they feel.

Curb-side pick-up:

The restaurant has the customer’s phone number which they can use to send them a quick text with a short customer feedback survey attached.

3rd party delivery:

This can be a little harder. The restaurant has no interaction with the customer themselves…except for what’s in the bag with the food. There’s an opportunity to put in a bag stuffer with a survey attached through a card with a QR code. Guest Recovery

In-store pick-ups:

Set up an iPad with a quick customer feedback survey or questionnaire they can punch in on their way out the door. Place QR codes on your products, on the bottom of a receipt, or on the door for them to notice as they are leaving. Signage is the key to grabbing your customers’ attention.

Employee Training

Employees and customers are butting heads in the current climate. While the employees are newer and untrained, stumbling to get their footing just right, the customers have higher expectations with cleanliness, convenience and speed.

So rather than hiring whole new teams, restaurants should consider transferring their second-best employee of each location to other locations that are in need of more help. Their influence will help the new hires.

Employees also need to be trained on the severity of COVID-19, and understand that they play a role in spreading the illness. They should be taught to gauge each individual by and respond accordingly.

“One advantage a restaurant has over many other businesses is that we can get instant feedback while our consumers are consuming our product,” Setting the Table, Danny Meyer.

The 3 A’s Guest Recovery Food Business

There are three reasons why someone does NOT give you their honest feedback.

To illustrate–a story:

I went to lunch a few weeks ago. No one was in front of me in line. I ordered a burger and fries. Burger comes out after 10 min. But no fries. So I wait… and wait…

… and wait…

… I go up and make sure that they know I’m still waiting. Maybe they forgot?

The person behind the counter seemed slightly annoyed and let me know they were ‘working on them as fast as they could.’

35 minutes after ordering, the fries are brought to the table and guess what…they were cold.

What were my options?

Complain and wait 30 min for new fries? Leave a negative review and hurt the business? Take some long survey that will ask me about bathroom cleanliness that takes 20 minutes? Or just not go back?

I’ve chosen the easiest option: not going back.

But why, even though I run a **GUEST FEEDBACK PLATFORM** did I not want to do it? #irony

Well I went to our research that shows that there are three reasons why someone doesn’t give guest feedback:

1. Too much annoyance (not worth the long survey, walking to the front, calling the store, etc)

2. Too much awkwardness (avoiding confrontation or making someone look bad)

3. Too little action (customers feel that their complaint won’t be heard anyway)


When was the last time you took a 75 question survey for a free cookie? Right? Never. Me too.


The last time a manager came up to your table to ask “How is everything?” (remember those days…?), did you say “Fine, thanks” even though they put onion on your sandwich and the table was dirty? #GuiltyAsCharged


When you talked to your significant other about something that was frustrating you and they didn’t put down their phone and listen, did you feel frustrated? (I know my wife did…oops!)

So whether or not you use Ovation, make sure your guest feedback solution is easy, non-confrontational, and that you actually make sure they feel heard.

Then you will get more feedback, that is more meaningful, and resulting in more loyal customers.

Best part? You’ll see the difference in less time than it took me to get my cold fries!

Feedback Channel with the 5 A’sRestaurant Guest Recovery Tips

There are more than just 3 A’s to understand if you want to fully reach that guest recovery opportunity.

There are more than just 3 A’s to understand if you want to fully reach that guest recovery opportunity.

The 5 A’s for effectively addressing mistakes are what set a good restaurant apart from a great one. With these 5 A’s restaurants go through the recovery process and become more personable to a customer.

Even professionals make mistakes and customers appreciate it more when they admit to these mistakes and follow this process to earn back their business.

Step 1: Awareness

The first step in this process is awareness. You must have enough interaction with your customers that you are aware of the recurring issues, or the most recent issue that needs addressed.

Step 2: Acknowledging

The second step is acknowledging that mistake. If a customer’s dish was forgotten, acknowledge it and bring it to their attention that you know there was a mistake made.

Step 3: Apologize

The third step is to apologize for said mistake. Be understanding and sympathetic with the customer. It’s not their fault, it’s yours.

Step 4: Action

The fourth step is to take action. Now that a mistake was made and maybe recovered in the process or after the fact, how will you manage it or avoid it altogether next time?

Step 5: Additional Generosity

The final action is additional generosity. Depending on the mistake, a complimentary dessert or something similar may be a good idea to thank them for their patience and to extend an olive branch in hopes they’ll come back again.

The Ovation Way

To keep customers engaged and coming back, you must take the hospitality a step further to really engage with your customers in these times. As Danny Meyers says, “Hospitality is dialogue.”

How do you have that dialogue without the handshake, the smile, the small talk? That’s why we’re here!

Ovation makes it easy to measure guest satisfaction from delivery, curbside, pick-up, third-party, and even (gasp) sitting down at the tables. We have tools so that you or your staff can respond to any guest concerns in 3 clicks and in real-time monitor those conversations. We then unsurface the hidden patterns needed to improve the guest experience.

Employees understand the omnichannel world we now live in; consumer expectations are higher than ever. Tools are ALWAYS present for consumers to provide feedback that is immediately actionable regardless of whether they are sitting inside your four walls or at their home.

We are happy to provide tips such as these, but remember, we’re always here to help automate the hard stuff, too. We spend our entire day working on improving guest experience through actionable feedback.

If you’d like to learn more, drop us a line or email me directly at zack [at]

Thanks for reading–we hope you gained some valuable insights!

Zack Oates is the Founder & CEO of Ovation, an actionable guest feedback tool for restaurants and retailers. He is an author, husband, father, entrepreneur, and hot tub aficionado. He loves talking about restaurant operations on his podcast, Give an Ovation.