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6 Steps To Making The Guest Experience Perfect

Restaurant Guest ExperienceThere 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.

The Greet

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.

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Suggestive Selling Sells Itself!

Server Training TipsWhat do you like about your favorite restaurant? I have a few personal favorites and the reasons are simple and I suspect they are the same as yours. I’m talking about casual dining, not the five-star, upscale dining experience. Most of us don’t go to those establishments on a regular basis; we go to the casual to casual-upscale restaurant, where we know the food quality is consistent, the bar carries our favorite wine or brand of vodka. Probably the most important reason we go is for the consistent service.

Of course we know the food is generally to our liking, but we also take for granted that we’re going to receive the same service as usual, nothing outstanding, but they always manage to get our food to us in a timely manner and they aren’t rude. And the atmosphere? Well, it’s always kind of loud and we don’t usually go there if we just want some peace and quiet while we eat. Sound like your reasoning when deciding to go out to eat?

Do you want your restaurant to be people’s favorite place to enjoy dinner? Is your food consistently good? Is your wait staff truly interested in your guests’ best dining experience? Or are they going to the tables and “taking an order?”

How many times have you heard one or all of your wait staff say, “I’m going to take table five’s order now…be right back.”

The answer is every day, of course.

They are so used to just taking an order that they don’t realize how much power they really have!

Yes, power!

They have, or should have, complete knowledge of your menu; they know the bar and the premium alcohol you serve. They have all this ammunition in their heads when they go to a table and they don’t use it! Instead they “take an order.”

Try changing the way they approach their duty as a server. Help them understand that they are an independent contractor/salesperson who has total control over his/her income. Suggest a cocktail or wine before guests ask about those things. Likewise, direct their thinking toward the appetizers and some of your most popular entrees, etc.

Suggestive selling is not insisting they have one of everything on the menu; it is simply guiding their dining experience and making them feel comfortable and welcome. When a server suggests and asks questions about what guests like, the guests feel as if their best dining experience is in the interest of the server. And it truly is if the server believes him/herself to be an independent salesperson.

It is a two-way street, of course. Guests will, more often than not, tip a server much more when they have been guided through their dining experience. As guests, we want to feel like our server has earned the tip. If he/she has guided us through the sometimes arduous journey of a menu, and found out our likes and dislikes and reacted accordingly, we feel good about leaving a bigger tip, knowing that our knowledgeable and caring server deserves it.

Training and information is the key!  Contact me, Susie, at Waiter Training, either by phone or email.  My business number is (720) 203-4615, and email address is  Web address is

Excellence is an act won by training and habituation.
We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence,
but rather we have those because we have acted rightly.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
– Aristotle

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How To Improve Dessert Sales

Cheesecake - the Classic StandbyAny server will tell you the hardest thing to sell is dessert.  The meal has come to an end, customers are ready to go or just enjoy a cup of coffee, and more often than not the dessert menu is met with some pretty stiff resistance.  Add in a climate of tightening belts and reduced budgets, and restaurants are facing a very difficult dessert climate indeed.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful dessert menu, however.  Tantalizing dessert items that are priced right and presented well can make for a very nice addition to your check averages.  All it takes is some investment in time and energy until you find just the right combination that gets your customer to go from saying “no” to “yes.”

Flavors: Exotic vs. Comfort

Exotic sounding desserts have been very fashionable for the last 10 years or so.  But it appears that customer’s tastes are changing to more familiar fare, and desserts are no different.  The flip side of that coin is coming across as too conventional, like cheesecake or vanilla ice cream.  By all means, serve these venerable stand-bys, but do so with a little attitude and flair.  Put some unique, and maybe even a little exotic, twist on your dessert offerings to make them feel fresh but not unfamiliar.

Sizes: Less Is More

Downsizing dessert options encourages customers to indulge a little at the end of their meal.  Quick, tasty desserts are the best way to get your guests buying.  Not only are more and more people health conscious these days, but also price conscious, and a trim but attractive little dessert addresses both of those issues.  Which leads us into the next component of a successful dessert menu:

Price: Less Is More Too

Single digit prices (i.e. $9 or less) are vital to selling desserts.  Since smaller portions are also more desirable, meeting this price requirement shouldn’t be too hard.  Standard pricing also makes the decision easier for the waffling guest.  Many restaurants set one price for all their desserts.  Some have also introduced tapas-style desserts: super small portions of inventive desserts that can be ordered individually or as a group (think 1 for X dollars or 3 for X dollars).

Training: Servers Need To Know Their Stuff

As with the rest of your menu, servers are going to be the key factor driving sales.  If they have followed the 4 R’s, they should be able to tailor their dessert presentation to what they anticipate the customer will want.  Servers should also have a good command of the details involved with each dessert: what’s in it, how it’s prepared, etc.  And the best thing you can do for your servers besides train them well is to give them props.  Being able to show guests a 3-D likeness of what they’re about to order is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your customer’s sweet tooth active.A Cup Of Coffee Goes Great With Dessert

Finally, don’t forget to have a good cup of coffee ready to go with all desserts.  The two go hand in hand for most people, and making sure your brew is up to par with your great dessert menu is more involved than you might think.  Desserts and coffee are mutually supportive, so if you take the time to fine tune both, you’ll end up driving after-dinner sales, and that will make both your servers and your bottom line happy.

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