Your guests don’t just come to your restaurant to eat – they come for the experience. Servers are there to do more than make drinks and take orders – they are there to “serve.” That means give the guest the experience they desire.
It’s the server’s job to “read the table” or get a sense of what type of experience their guests want. Part of this is reading the mood of the guests. They can also capture the clues from dress, body language and eye contact. This information gives the server a guess as to what type of service their guests want.
- A group of intent looking business people probably prefer the “take our order, bring our food and refills” approach.
- Vacationers want to know about things to do, how long the restaurant’s been around and suggestions for what to eat.
- The family celebrating a birthday will want to linger and engage in conversation and attention from the server.A couple or single parent with young children may appreciate a server diverting the attention of their kids for a moment or two.
- Someone who glances at a watch or doesn’t put down his or her phone indicates quick, no frills service.
Redefine the Servers’ Role
Reading the table helps servers notice small details such as who may pay the check. This gives the guests a feeling of experience from the server.
From my experience, this skill is not always practiced. Servers need to be taught that reading the table and paying attention to the extra details gets them better financial return. A server really needs to see himself or herself as a salesperson. This benefits them and the restaurant with higher sales and better tips.
Match Your Servers to Their Customers
When I waited tables, I always requested to serve the drinkers and the big groups. I considered myself a specialist in taking care of the people who liked to have fun because I’m interested in learning people’s stories and interacting with people. I also come from a large family, so I like connecting with lots of people.
I think it’s important to match your staff to the type of people they serve as best you can. You can structure your table setup so that you match your servers to their skill sets. Place your efficient less talkative servers in the high turnover tables. Put your bubbly talker in the party room or with the larger tables.
Start Every Shift with This Goal
A pre-shift meeting is a good idea, too. One of my former managers had us do a line up and talk about our goals for the evening. He had reminded us to use proper hygiene but also to make the dinner an experience for the guest. He said it was our job to help the customer remember our “experience,” not just our food.
These simple strategies can really make a difference in your customer retention and sales.
Amanda Brandon blogs her thoughts on menu design trends and restaurant marketing strategies for MustHaveMenus, the leading provider of online restaurant menu designs, graphics, and marketing guides for the food service industry.