Restaurant Service 101
One of the most common customer feedback that a F&B establishment receives is that we experienced poor service. It is one of the most heart-breaking statements that one can receive especially after putting in so much effort into creating that moment of experience for the guest. So what can we do to change that. Most managers just tell the staff to buck up or give the staff a good shouting and hope that it will fall into place the next time. However more often than not it does not.
So here are a few pointers that I picked up from some of the best servers & managers that I had the honour to work with in my career.
This one is a game changer. Best servers never take their eyes off their guests and keep watching them even if they are doing other tasks. Be it passing orders to team mates, taking orders on the table, serving dishes etc. They keep watching their guests and always seem to know what is happening on a table all the time. They also have a rule that they never leave the floor and go to the kitchen or the bar for any reason.
Implementing this is not easy as this is like being on stage all the time and most servers have stage fright. They will look for excuses to leave the floor on some pretext or the other but with a little diligence this can be achieved. With this I mean not to breathe down the neck of the staff and make them do it. What needs to be done is systematically remove all the reasons for the staff to leave the floor and to train them to stay in the spotlight and enjoy it.
Encourage small talk with guests
Most servers with pun intended, only have a vocabulary of "Yes Sir", "No Sir" & "Thank you sir". Not that they are not able to have a conversation. They sure can in their normal life and that is the only reason why most servers are selected today. There seems to be an invisible rule that is prevalent on the outlet floor that you should not talk to your guests as you will be spending time chit chatting with guests and not actually working.
Small talk fosters bonding of your team with your guests and will make your guests come back because of that comfort. Encourage staff to ask open-ended questions like "How was your day" "What do you feel like eating today" "You could use a drink" etc. that will encourage the guests to have a conversation. This leads the guest to think of the server as an interesting person to engage with. Servers will learn how to lead these discussions to make the sale they are intending to.
Teach them the menu
This I speak from personal experience. When I started working in restaurants I was doing pretty well in an Indian restaurant. Suddenly one afternoon I was asked to work in a Thai restaurant with a very classical menu. My world suddenly changed. I did not know any of the dishes on the menu and did not know what to sell, did not know how to pronounce the dish names and definitely did not know how the food looked. It took me couple of weeks to get the hang of the menu. But that was because I was diligent enough to learn. If not addressed, you can have team members who do not know the menu even after many months.
As a guest when you talk to a server, you kind of figure this out quite fast that the server does not have a clue about what is what. This always leads to an unhappy guest. Training needs to be given not just with notes & lectures but with the servers actually tasting the product and experiencing it always comes through when they talk to the guests.
Whenever there is a complaint from the guest the management often makes decision to do something for the guest. However more often than not this is an executive decision. Servers are not allowed to make these decisions. Personally, I feel that by encouraging them to think like management would help the management in addressing the problem right when the guest is still in the premise.
Staff will never mis-use this empowerment if you allow them to make these calls. In fact, they feel important and you have a more enthusiastic team member. This sure beats the hell out of trying to make a service recovery once the guest has left the premise and writes a feedback on social media.
Lead by Example
Now to say all this is easy. Doing this is hard work. I am by no means asking you to do the server's job. I am asking you to do something that is much more difficult. Your staff will notice if you have the eye for detail. They will observe, how you make small talk with your guests. They will admire when you have the product knowledge that you expect of them & they will repay the trust that you put in them when you back them when they make a decision.
Making a guest happy is everyone's responsibility in equal measure. Wishing you that you have more delighted guests every day.