Dining in a restaurant is a different experience for every single customer, and everyone comes for a different reason. Some come to enjoy your ambience, some want to feel refined and be waited on. Many walk through your doors because they're too tired from work to cook for themselves. From the hostess to the busboys, your staff does everything they can to make the dining experience for your guests a rewarding and relaxing experience, but it's not always easy to tell what kind of experience a customer wants.
What About Introverted Customers?
This is particularly true when your customers are introverts. These customers don't necessarily want dinner with a smile. They don't want to chit-chat while drinks are served and they don't want to be checked on half a dozen times while they eat. Let's face it: the standard operating procedure of the restaurant world just isn't prepared for the modern introvert despite the fact that they are more likely to be ideal customers who cause no trouble and always leave a tip.
With the rise of online and mobile services, industries across the board are adapting to the needs of introverts and the restaurant world is ready to do the same. Let's take a look at how you can adapt your staff, service, and even your payment policies to make your introvert customers happy and win yourself an increasing number of well-behaved regulars.
The Restaurant World Was Built for Extroverts
The general attitude about restaurants, at least in the USA, is that going out to eat is a social experience. You go out with a date, with friends, or to talk with business partners. Even people eating alone are expected to want a smile and a few words of small talk with their waiter before getting down to business. Wait staff are taught that to provide superb service, to make eye contact and to smile big. If a customer seems nervous or uncomfortable, waiters are encouraged to make a little conversation and to check in regularly to make sure everything is alright. But this isn't always the right move for every customer.
Every experienced waiter eventually learns the various 'types' of customer. The loud talkers, the special requester, the big groups and the quiet dates. Each type has their own preferences for small talk and check-ins. Eventually, you learn to spot the people who make less eye contact and just want to focus on whatever companion or task they came in with. But it shouldn't take a veteran waiter to know how to deal with introverts. This doesn't need to be an advanced skill because, quite frankly, introverts are usually easier to deal with.
Know an Introvert When You See One
Introverts can often be spotted the moment they walk in the door. They tend to avoid unnecessary eye contact and will often choose to wait at the edge of a large waiting crowd instead of pushing through. If they come with a friend, they will focus on that friend to the exclusion of most others. If they come with a task, they will focus on that. Otherwise, your introvert customers may simply sit quietly and watch other people without saying much.
For wait staff who meet customers for the first time at the table, introverts may speak more softly than others, not make as much eye contact, and seem to be what most people would call 'shy'. Don't consider this rude or weird. Instead, take it as a challenge to provide a delightful restaurant experience to someone who is more likely to be polite, undemanding, and appreciative of high-quality service.
Seat Introverts in Corners
If at all possible, seat your introverted customers in a quiet or slightly darker corner. They are less likely to mind dim light and will appreciate being out of the busier areas and walking paths. That said, many introverts who like restaurants go out to eat in order to be near people without having to mingle with them so there's no need to seat with true isolation in mind. Instead, think of the best place for quiet people-watching, a common 'sport' among shy people.
Be Friendly Without Chatter
Introverts aren't necessarily unfriendly or against friendly conversation, they just usually don't prefer a lot of pointless chit-chat. This means that your friendly wait staff routine is likely to be quiet welcome and met with shy smiles as long as you stick to the point. In reality, introverted customers are much less likely to waste your time unless you somehow unlock the private shell and invite an outpouring of personal thoughts.
Don't get discouraged if a customer doesn't seem interested in hearing the specials, discussing the menu, or talking about the dishes they want to order. Being friendly and respectful of this preference is your best route to an appreciative tip.
Offer Online Ordering
One unusual but surprisingly effective method is to allow your guests to make online orders for in-house dining. For introverts who like dining out, talking about their order can be the most awkward part of the experience. Some enjoy chatting with their servers, but some stumble over their words and would by far prefer to order either on their way in or even at the table instead of having a conversation about what they want to eat.
When you integrate an online menu and ordering system, it doesn't have to just be for delivery. Give your customers the option to dine-in while still taking advantage of the easy to browse menu, no-confusion ordering, and self-totalling cost. This simple innovation can make several aspects of your business more welcoming and accessible to introverted or just plain busy customers who would rather order through their phones or even before they arrive to be seated.
And for the true introverts, online ordering (get a free trial here) could be the key to flocks of quiet, easy to manage customers enjoying a little public privacy and a good meal.
Finally, it should be noted that introverts aren't always unassuming, or even shy customers once they get to know you. Especially after they've become regulars and gotten more comfortable with your venue and staff. Don't be surprised if one day one of your quiet, consistently-tipping introverts suddenly opens up and tells you their life story or how their day went. Introverts aren't resolutely against making friends, it just takes them time. And if your venue can become a nurturing place for them to enjoy a quiet meal with high-tech considerations, you could win a loyal customer for life who is considerate to the wait staff and never complains unnecessarily. In other words, every restaurateur's dream.
For more great tips on how to expand your restaurant business or integrate an online ordering system, contact us today!