The restaurant business is one of 1,000 details. Even though we get 990 of them right, it's the 10 we miss that the guest always sees. And these impressions are lasting ones with the potential to have a highly negative impact on our businesses. I have always trained my staff on the fine art of noticing—that is, putting themselves in the guests’ shoes as they enter the restaurant for their shifts. We can never underestimate the importance of having each and every team member notice what the guest may see and fix all those potentially negative impressions before the guest does.

Real estate agents talk of “curb appeal” to help sell a house. The same concept applies to your restaurant. In the case of restaurants, 12 key guest contact points will help maximize your curb appeal and positive guest impressions: remote contacts, entrance, the host podium, manager, the bar, bathrooms, tables, your food and drink, service staff, the guest check and the all-important “thank you” and “welcome back.”

Pay attention to these contact points to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward:

• Do phone greeters encourage callers to visit your restaurant? Is your website simple, current and viewable from all devices with a printable menu?

• Are the parking lot and entrance clean? Are there any lights burned out, and are advertisements or event posters up to date?

• Are your hosts trained to welcome and thank each guest for coming, to communicate with your service team and to make suggestions your guests will enjoy?

• Are your bathrooms maintained every 20 minutes with all dispensers full, dry counters and no overflowing trash receptacles?

• Do your tables wobble? If so, are unsightly coasters and napkins used to prop up a leg?

• Are your condiment dispensers clean and full? Is the floor under tables inspected and clean before seating new guests? Are menus presentable?

• Is each dish served hot, garnished properly and presented with a “wow factor?”

• Are your service staff knowledgeable on the product and restaurant and ready to educate, inform entertain and sell?

• Is each guest check accurate, expedited and reconciled quickly?

• Finally, does each member of your service team make eye contact, smile, thank every guest and welcome them to return?

Remember, service happens daily behind the scenes in your restaurant before your doors open for business. Happy repeat customers begin with a caring, observant and happy staff.