If you run restaurants, there are always the daily fires to put out, but nothing is more important than training your servers. Many restaurants train on service, but few train on salesmanship. Both are equally important to a great guest experience.
Your servers are the front-lines face of your business and leave thousands of impressions on your customers every week. I’ve always said that the restaurant business is one of a thousand details. You may get 990 of them right, but the 10 you miss are what the guest always sees. One of the most important details is your server’s approach to your customer. If you do not routinely train (and I recommend daily pre-shifts at the very least), your service team may be making mistakes that lead to lackluster guest experiences and lost business.
Are your servers making these mistakes?
1. NOT ACKNOWLEDGING NEW TABLES IMMEDIATELY (BY NAME)
Customers expect to be Acknowledged, Appreciated and Served. There’s nothing worse than being seated and ignored, waiting to be approached by a server. Your restaurant should have a “Greet within 3 minutes” policy to acknowledge the customer and make them comfortable. This buys the server time to multi-task. Many times servers are in the weeds and all over the restaurant (in the kitchen, at the service bar, at the POS terminal, even out back taking a smoke break). This far too common approach is inefficient and leads to poor service. Remember, a server’s office are their tables. If the server is busy, they simply need to make eye contact, greet the customer, introduce themselves by name (a personal touch) and tell the customer they’ll be right back to take care of them.
2. NOT ASKING THE CUSTOMER IF THEY ARE FIRST-TIME VISITORS
Many times customers are first timers who know nothing about what makes your restaurant special. This is the time to build relationships and give customers lots of reasons to return. Making them feel “connected” to your restaurant is your most powerful form of marketing.
Once you have their “Affinity” and create a sense of belonging with your core audience, you will build repeat business, word of mouth and a true Competitive Advantage for your restaurant.
3. NOT HAVING COMPLETE PRODUCT & RESTAURANT KNOWLEDGE
You can’t sell if you don’t know and an “I don’t know” answer is a negative impression to your customer. Effective and regular training in both Service & Sales is critical to your restaurant’s success. First, create a list of your restaurant’s “Hooks” – those unique food, drink or merchandise items, recipes, ways of doing business or marketing that capture your customer’s imagination. Train your staff to know your hooks and menus inside out then condition them to educate, inform and entertain your customers with their knowledge Every Table, Every Time! This will build your sales and your customer’s Affinity to your restaurant.
4. NOT HAVING A GAME PLAN (EVERY TABLE, EVERY TIME)
The tables in your restaurant are valuable real estate, there to generate as much profit as possible. Yet, far too many servers are “Order Takers” providing ordinary experiences to guests and leaving lots of money on the table. That’s why every server should have a strategy for every shift (what bottle of wine will I recommend, what “upsells & add-ons will I recommend, etc..) Remember, many guests are first-time visitors. Its up to your staff to educate, inform & entertain them making suggestions your customers will enjoy and appreciate. This will double and even triple your sales with continued training and execution.
5. NOT ASKING FOR HELP (Poor Communication)
Your service staff are a team including your managers. Every front of house person should approach every customer as if they were your Most Important Customer. This takes teamwork and communication. No server, host or busser is an island. Train your staff to back each other up, communicate and ask for Help to ensure every guest’s experience is consistent and memorable.
6. NOT INVITING THE CUSTOMER TO RETURN
It’s far more powerful and less expensive to market to your existing customers than to try to find new ones, so it only makes sense to make friends and build “Affinity” with every customer who walks in your door. Remember to promote your “Hooks”, train your entire staff on product and restaurant knowledge and to treat every customer as if they were your best or only customer. Then smile, thank them and invite them back again and again.