Many restaurants train on the fine art of service, but in my experience few train their staff to SELL! Both are equally important to a great dining experience and just as important to your restaurant bottom line.
Recently, my wife, some friends and I went out to a nice restaurant. By nice, I mean it’s chef owned and operated, has an upscale comfortable environment and higher prices. The restaurant is located in a city with tremendous competition for dining guests from every conceivable restaurant type. With all these choices, getting diners to post positive reviews and become regulars is the ongoing challenge.
After being seated immediately, our experience began with a greeting from our personable friendly server who knew the restaurant and the menu inside out – great start! As a 20 year veteran restaurateur, I critique every service experience and you probably do as well whenever you dine out. You might say we have a critical eye, as we know what happens (or what should be happening behind the scenes). In my opinion, very few servers in the restaurants I visit across the country and even around the world are this well versed, so I had great expectations of what was to come.
Our server informed us of the night’s specials and ably answered our questions about flavors, preparation, etc. She had obviously tasted much of the menu and spoke as if she were the chef who prepared them. It was the same with drinks. This restaurant had an extensive specialty cocktail list and again, our server knew them well and answered our questions.
An overstuffed basket of hearty rustic bread was brought to our table hot and steamy. Our server courteously asked if we each would enjoy olive oil and fresh cracked pepper for dipping. Our food was prepared perfectly and each entrée was a delightful blend of presentation and flavor profile. We each cleared our plates and at dessert time, our server asked us if we had left room for dessert.
Sounds like a great experience right? You’d think so, but not so much for either the guest or the restaurant. What was lacking? Numerous sales opportunities were missed from the start to end of our meal.
We each ordered a glass of wine or cocktail, but our server never upsold us to a bottle of wine or asked any of us if we would like another round after we had finished our drinks – even though, our empty glasses sat on the table throughout much of the meal. At a minimum, the server lost at least $50 in added sales from drinks alone.
She did not suggest her favorite appetizers and desserts but again simply asked the common Yes/No Question: Have you left any room for dessert? One of us ordered coffee, but this was not upsold to suggest Baileys, Jameson’s, etc. We decided to try another place for dessert where we also ordered liqueurs in our coffee, minus the suggestion from the server.
From start to finish in the first restaurant, our dining experience was led by what I call an “Order Taker”, albeit a very knowledgable one. You see, true service is an “art” and a great dining experience is more than just about preparing and presenting great food & drink. Dining Out should be a memorable event and servers should take their guests on a magical experience through suggestions they know their guests will most enjoy and appreciate. Keep in mind that restaurant sales opportunities are fickle and fleeting. Each guest at every table presents a series of opportunities that are either first recognized at each stage of the meal by the server and captured,or lost forever.
These lost opportunities represent lost sales of tens of thousands of dollars per server per year. A truly great restaurant trains their staff to serve, suggest and sell! Now go out there and Rock Your Restaurant!