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Jump-Start Your Hospitality Standards Today

When guests get a sense that their server is warm, friendly and demonstrates a genuine interest in taking care of them, the potential for a positive dining experience is greatly enhanced. We’ve all heard it said that great service can make up for bad food but great food can never make up for bad service and that’s what hospitality or the human side of service is all about.

Eye contact and smiles. While this is so basic to the hospitality industry, eye contact and smiles from hosts, hostesses, servers and bartenders toward their guests is often nowhere to be seen. Constantly remind and role-play on the importance of this. Building positive hospitality experiences is next to impossible without them.

Seating. When other tables are available, guests may appreciate the host or hostess asking if the table they’re presented is all right. If not, offer one that is more to their liking. Your servers start out at a disadvantage if, for whatever reason, someone wishes they had been seated at another table.
Sensitive upselling. Yes, servers are there to sell but first and foremost they should be focused on taking care of your customers and doing whatever they can to turn them into loyal, repeat guests. The National Restaurant Association tells us that around 60 percent of sales in fine dining restaurants come from repeat business and in casual restaurants it’s even more, up to 80 percent. Your single, most important goal should be to turn casual customers into regular, repeat guests.

Specific personal questions. After the main course is delivered, encourage servers to approach each table with specific, personal questions that demonstrate they have minds that are engaged and they truly care about the responses. This can be nothing more complicated than, “Is your tuna cooked the way you like it?” or “Your filet looks really tender, is it?” It displays a level of caring and personal interest that most restaurants will never pick up on.

Connect with the kids. Parents appreciate servers who take a sincere interest in their kids. We’ve had servers go out of their way to learn our kids’ names, show them the fish tank up close and get them something special from the kitchen. Train your people to recognize the kids. Have them ask parents if you could bring them something to nibble on first. Parents will love it and the kids may just start recommending your restaurant the next time the family is deciding where to eat.

Be on the guest’s side. Servers should always convey that they’re looking out for their guest’s best interest. When servers go to bat for the guest, they notice. While dining with my family, our server took our order and suggested changing two separate dinners to a combination and some sides that saved us a few dollars. The money wasn’t the issue; the fact that she was looking out for us made a huge impression. I ended up leaving a much bigger tip, we made her our new favorite server and we plan to ask for her section the next time we visit.

Good-byes. Remind servers to impart a sincere “thank you” to guests as they get ready to leave. In addition to showing appreciation for their patronage, tell guests what a pleasure it was to serve them and be sure servers always ask them to return. As in the server’s introduction, sincere smiles and direct eye contact is crucial or it will be interpreted as mere empty words.

Any staff member, be they another server, hostess, busser or manager, who passes by guests leaving the restaurant should also be ready with a smile and friendly “thank you.” Hosts and hostesses should be especially on notice. It’s a slight downer when the hostess who was so warm and friendly when you arrived doesn’t even look up when you pass by the hostess stand to leave.

Source: Jim Laube for Restaurant Startup & Growth