Which comes first....Great Service or Great Food?

This topic came up recently in another blog and was a table thumper among some business colleagues recently. What is your opinion? Here is the scenario.

You recently acquire, purchase, or are transferred to a poor running restaurant and have to get it back up on it's feet as quickly as possible and moving in the right direction. All things being equal (assume both service and food are mediocre in your new restaurant) and your resources limit you to only work on one area at a time, which gets your attention first? Guest Service or Food Quality.

Which will bring you the most guest, sales, and overall improvement?

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Comment by Dinersfeedback.com on June 9, 2008 at 7:51am
Great Service ..

I think it depends on the type of restaurant too . If it is a qsr - service may not be as important as it would be in a full service restaurant .
Comment by Brian on May 3, 2008 at 10:14pm
In my personal dining experiences.....

As a guest in the many restaurants I have frequented over the years, I have definitely leaned the way of better food than better service. My thinking was this: As long as the food was good, I was coming back because the next time I go in, the odds are I won't have the same server. The food has to be the constant. Guest service is very important as well, but I could have all the great service in the world and if the food isn't good I'm not coming back. The last restaurant I was at was an example of this thinking. When we first opened, we had great "guest first" servers. The food was terrible. After about 3 months, we had driven out most first time guests, and as the money left, so did the good servers. Only after we changed things up in the BOH did we start to build a good guest base up again. Unfortunately we were left with a mediocre FOH staff, young and inexperienced. I observed however that we had more repeat business and guest building because the food had greatly improved. Once again I believe they both are integral in running a successful restaurant but you said pick one. Thanks for your time.
Comment by Randy Caparoso on April 19, 2008 at 4:18pm
I like that placque... from my experience, it's chefs who know on what side the bread is buttered who are the most successful as businessmen. It's well and good to be a great chef, and knowing about it; but it's an even greater chef who knows that it's FOH quality that makes or breaks a restaurants, not matter how good (or even bad) your cooking is.

Comment by Chef Rox on April 19, 2008 at 2:43pm
We had a plaque in our restaurant that said
"Good service can help make up for bad food but good food can't make up for bad service"

The host/hostess and servers are the first faces a customer sees. It amazes me still to walk into a business and not one person takes the time to say hello.

We ate in a chain restaurant the other day and the first clue that something was wrong was the G.M. waiting tables and not just helping or moving around to meet customers. When she came to our tabel she went even further to say" AIN'T it awful what you have to do when you are at the top and you are short staffed. FOH staf complained about BOH, french fries were an extra charge and the portion control did not exist unless serving a child postion is the norm there now.

This was a chain that we normally enjoyed but it was bad from start to finish. It will be awhile before we try it again.
Comment by Steve Paterson on March 24, 2008 at 8:30pm
I guess I'm in the minority here.
In the spirit of the question, which is one or the other, but not both, I would focus on BOH operations first.
My reasoning?
It has the higher operating cost and is likely responsible for 80+ percent of my revenue.
Getting BOH controls in place will have a larger impact on my bottom line, sooner.
Then I would start focusing on the top line.

Of course, in my reality, I would attack both at the same time, but that's not the topic here.
Comment by mike barton on March 21, 2008 at 1:11am
i know im late on this but its easily said that quality service "impacts" the guest experience more. there are countless restaurants around town i know i can visit and get good food; i myself can stay at home and prepare a meal that i will enjoy, instead i choose to dine out to experience the service aspect.
i might be new at this but my philosophy for creating returning revanue is being different. Again there are hundreds of establishments in tucson to choose from when you want a plate of beef enchiladas or nachos and a large number of those will make the food to perfection. the training of your staff is where you gain ground on the compititon. Hiring good staff is key, but everyone is going to have the sub-par server around who doesn't "wow" guests but also never does anything really wrong( so your kinda stuck with em). this is where the training and proper steps of service can make a difference. all the little things such as suggestive selling, manacuring a table (less is better: clearing sugar packets, used plates, silverware etc), knowing the product, not auctioning plates, and beverage levels. The guest might not notice every aspect of this type of service, but i think thats what you want. it could be an empty water through their perfectly cooked meal that had their attention the whole time making them not want to come back. if they don't think or wait for anything... job well done.
Comment by Joe Archuleta on March 19, 2008 at 8:39am
.....and on an added note...my spelling from time to time will be nasty...but working on five screens not only enhances my multi tasking skills it gets my fingers tangled..hahahahah, so don't be tempted to tell me that I misspelled a word. Early morning humor.....ta ta.....
Comment by Joe Archuleta on March 19, 2008 at 8:31am
Well, there you have it folks! Guest Services used to be a comany that had the food contract at Yosemite National Park years ago. Losing the contract to the "low" bidder started the demise of service and the food quality became substandard. It all became food cost oriented. They wanted to get the food cost below 20% and the labor as well. Needless to say, you know what happened. Service is and will continue to be the driver for business. And if you don't agree with me....I will forgive you..lol
Comment by Jeff on March 19, 2008 at 6:57am
Great Service will always make up for average or below average food. If the guest feel welcomed and the service attitude is sincere it will bring the guest back. People want to feel special and the restaurants that have the ability to make their guest feel special each and every visit could get away with average or below average food. Some of the best regular guest in the restaurants are that way because of a bad dining experience that the employees/manager fixed and made right with a sincere desire to please the guest.
Comment by Andy Swingley on March 17, 2008 at 6:08pm
Adam, I am working on my presentation currently. I will forward you a copy when I am done!

Thanks to all again for some awesome feedback!




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