“Hospitality is a dialogue,” Danny Meyer, Setting the Table.

The traditional hospitality exchange went a little something like this:
Manager: “How was your experience today?”
Customer: “Good, thanks.”
The manager then left the table and the customer would proceed to complain about the food and the experience.

What kept that customer from bringing up those complaints when the manager was at their table asking for feedback?

Several factors could answer that, for one, it’s a little awkward and confrontational, maybe it wasn’t even worth mentioning, or it was a petty complaint, or maybe they didn’t know the best way to give the feedback or how much of it to give with the manager standing there hovering.

There are several problems with this old way of table touch hospitality.
1. When approached customers are not honest, they feel awkward
2. There is no guarantee every table will be touched during the course of the meal
3. You cannot have a traditional table touch off premise
4. There is no corporate view of the situation or a way to connect root issues

The reason for the table touch is simple:
If there was a problem–solve it on the spot because a yelp review and a lost customer is worth thousands of dollars.
If it was great–invite them back and ask them to share because nothing drives business like word of mouth.

Amidst all these flaws and gaps in traditional table touches, there is hope! Hospitality is not dead. Hospitality has gone … DIGITAL.

Social distancing prevents traditional table touches.
Online ordering eliminates traditional table touches.
But off-premise necessitates tables touches more than ever.

Below are some insights on how to get ahead in this digital table touch and hospitality world.
We will look at the ways we can win back our customers, obtain actionable feedback and respond to that feedback quickly and easily.

Make it Simple

The first step in grasping digital hospitality is making it simple. We, as restaurant and business owners, want to remove the awkwardness customers feel when asked at their table how things are going. One option to fix that may be, receipt surveys post meal. The problem with that though, is the customer doesn’t want to be bothered with 20 question receipt surveys upon leaving.

Ovation did a study showing that 79% of people don’t like taking surveys because it is too much work for the incentive, one customer said, “[Surveys] are too long and annoying and I never hear back when I give feedback.”

The real solution to removing the awkwardness and allowing our customers to feel heard is using text automations. Utilizing SMS, your customers can receive a 2 question survey, (1) rate your experience, (2) leave us a google review, or if they rate their experience poorly, (2) leave your feedback here and a message is sent to the GM of that location for them to resolve the issue in real time.

The average response time for a text message is only 90 seconds— compared to 90 minutes for email (CTIA, HubSpot, GSMA). This illustrates how a text message can perform in real time, fixing this issue, saving the customer, and logging the data to go with it.

A second viable option in receiving easy feedback is QR codes. QR codes provide an easy way to scan and provide feedback on the go for customers. Whether your QR codes are on table stickers in your restaurant or they’re on to-go cards placed in carry-out bags, wherever they are, QR codes create an easily accessible place for the customer to come to you with feedback and not feel bombarded by the restaurant forcing them to give feedback.

The Quicker the Better

Mastering digital hospitality takes quick response times. Struggling to keep up with the reviews on Google and Yelp, not to mention social media like Facebook and Twitter? Do they pile up so quickly by the time you get around to it, there are too many to respond to?

Ovation has a solution for you. When a customer is dissatisfied, instead of turning to social media or other review platforms to vent, the customer is able to take their feedback directly to a GM. The GM receives a notification through Ovation’s winback app, which then allows them to respond in just three clicks to the customer.

Pre-written responses are programmed into the app by the company, customized to their most common complaints or concerns which then allows the manager to respond even while on the job on a busy Friday night.

Ovation did a study of about 215 participants nationwide revealing that the number one thing people want … is to be heard!

Using this type of methodology streamlined with our easy-to-use tech, we at Ovation have been able to help customers like Domino’s increase their feedback from 5-7 pieces per week per location to 50-70–all while reducing the time to address the unhappy customers by 60%.

Don’t Make it Difficult

We need to adapt and move to improve things that were broken, try things that have elegant fixes, and be open to continuing a dialogue with our customers on their terms.

This process improves the entire feeling of the business, creating happy customers, in turn happy employees who aren’t receiving complaints they don’t know how to resolve. Danny Meyer said it beautifully in Setting the Table, “Our guests are never any happier coming to dine with us than our employees are about coming to work.”

In our Off-Prem eBook, the final chapter discusses a topic called kaizen. “Kaizen is the Japanese term for “continuous improvement” and in business, it represents the idea of everyone in the company working together to make operations as optimal as possible.”

That is the “new” table touch, the “better” table touch, the “digital” table touch.

If you want to give it a try, visit www.ovationup.com for a free consultation about your restaurant.


Zack Oates is an author, husband, father, entrepreneur, and hot tub aficionado (but not in that order, necessarily). He grew up in the restaurant industry and after starting 3 companies, ringing the NASDAQ bell, and being voted top 100 entrepreneurs, he brought his love of tech and passion for restaurants together. He has been featured in Forbes, Yahoo! News, Tech Crunch, Franchise Magazine, and hosts the restaurant podcast, Give an Ovation. He is the founder and CEO of Ovation, an actionable guest feedback tool for restaurants and retailers.