There are several moments that are crucial to the guest’s perception of your restaurant. In order for service staff and managers to deliver a great guest experience, they must understand these important aspects of the guest experience. Specifically these are when the guest is entering the building, being greeted by the server, checked on during their meal, asked for feedback and thanked before they leave.
Every detail in the restaurant is important. That said these are the moments when you can win people over and generate rave reviews. Your service staff touches all of these points, with staff members in different roles starring at different points of the guest experience. By emphasizing these moments to your staff, you can improve your staff’s awareness of them. The result will be improved performance and increased restaurant sales.
Entering the Building, Before and During
The server is the most important point of contact for the guest, the face of the company, and the person with the most responsibility for whether the guest leaves with a good experience. That said the server is almost never the member on the service staff who first interacts with the guest. That person is the staff member who answers the phone or greets guests at the door. Your hosts and hostesses are vital to the guest experience, as they are the people who do.
After the guest has made a phone call to your restaurant and before they are greeted, their impression of your restaurant is forming. The appearance and condition of the building, either from driving by or walking up through the parking lot, can impact whether or not they want to eat at your restaurant. People hanging around outside can positively or negatively affect the guest experience, depending on whether it’s a lively crowd waiting to enter or employees off duty or on breaks.
Their impression continues to form as they enter the building. The first person on the service staff that greets them is usually a host or hostess. For this function, demeanor and appearance are the most crucial, as the door positions require a particular type of professionalism. There are some great servers and bartenders that might not be the best fit working up front. Managers and owners must be cognizant of this fact when hiring and selecting staff for these roles. The demeanor of the people working at the very front can greatly affect restaurant sales.
Greeting guests at their table is a very important aspect of the guest experience, as well. The greet must take place in a timely manner. Equally important, it must be warm, friendly and hospitable. The server must smile, make eye contact, and use hospitable language. As they are doing this, they need to observe the makeup of the party, the tone of the guest and tailor the experience accordingly. In the initial greet, the server gets a lot of information.
As does the guest. While you are observing them and collecting information, this is when the guest decides whether or not they like you. This affects your tips and the future revenue for the restaurant.
If I had any advice for any server anywhere, it would be to be great at the greet. Pay attention to your details, because everything else you are doing is important, but be great at the greet.
Checking on Meal
Checking on the meal is equally crucial for the restaurant. At the end of the day, people are coming for the food. People buy the experience, but the food is a big, big part of that.
Of the several functions of the checkback, a key one is to show hospitality. You are checking to make sure everything is ok and most of the time it is. Still, while executing this step of service the server must be able to sincerely show empathy and concern.
After demonstrating hospitality, the next function of the checkback is quality control. The server must make sure that the orders are correct, complete, and satisfying. Orders usually arrive at the table correct, but sometimes the expediter in the kitchen may miss something. A correct order is also correctly prepared. If something is over or undercooked, you want to find out as soon as possible.
Sometimes orders arrive incomplete. Someone could be missing sides or one person at the table could be missing a meal. This is especially possible if a food runner or server assistant delivered the dinners and not the server. There is also the possibility that people may be missing condiments, napkins, or silverware. Should a guest need any of those, they must be delivered promptly. If someone waits four minutes for a soup spoon the soup will be cold. The same goes for mayo and mustard for a hamburger; the food gets cold and they are waiting that long to start their meal.
Along with demonstrating hospitality, checking also provides the opportunity to enhance the guest experience. For instance, if a guest labored over a choice, you want to take the time to specifically ask that person if they are happy with their choice. If they enjoy it, you can play up a great decision and celebrate a great product. Taking this action can impact future sales. By contrast, if the choice is unsatisfactory, you are allowed the opportunity to fix it.
Observing for Feedback
Asking for feedback is crucial. However that is not the only way for a server to collect information. The server’s observation skills are very important. They are used at the very beginning of the experience when they are greeted. They are also used throughout the experience. Keen servers can realize problems before the guest says anything and sometimes as they are happening. This can run the gamut from something missing from a plate, something that does not taste well, or a guest that is uncomfortable. Strong servers are strong observers.
Asking for Feedback
This is a crucial step for servers and managers. The server and the manager function differently in asking for feedback. The server asks and checks on the guest throughout. The manager will either come during the meal or before the guest leaves. Sometimes the managers have a better chance of getting candid feedback from a guest.
Getting the right feedback is important. To do this, the server and the manager have to actually stop and take the time to get feedback. Rushing through checkbacks and table visits does not work. If you are moving so quickly that it looks like you don’t care, they will assume that you do not care. There is also an intangible quality about getting the right feedback. I have noticed some managers are able to get better feedback than others.
Thanking the Guest
More than one person should thank the guest. Ideally, the server thanks them, sincerely. Then after that the people at the door should offer a warm thank you as well. These words are crucial. Otherwise the guest can leave without feeling appreciated.
All details in the restaurant must meet protocol. This article is about specific moments that can greatly impact sales. The success at these points of the guest experience is based on the service staff member’s soft skills. Your staff should be educated on how important these moments are and trained on best practices for these moments.
Erik Bullman is a Writer and a Waiter. He has over six years experience in Hospitality and Sales. His blog is Writer, Salesman, Waiter.