Answer the Service Imperative
According to a recent Zagat Survey , 57% of participants cited service as the weakest link in the dining-out experience, and “hospitality” of the overall dining experience as a 20 out of a possible 30. Although both these figures represent an improvement over previous results, it’s doubtful that any savvy restaurant professional would judge these to be good enough.
The data also hints at what the service experience really is—not just the ferrying of food and drink from bar and kitchen to table, but the niceties that go along with it.
• Someone should always be available to greet an arriving guest. Nothing is worse than walking into a restaurant and being unacknowledged. A staff member should always approach a new customer upon entry, even if it’s just to tell them that someone else will be right there to help them.
• By the same token, a staff member should say “goodbye” and “thank you.” No, it doesn’t need to be like the sushi bar where the entire crew bids arigatou, but the server should make every attempt to be there when the table leaves, and if that’s not possible someone else should do the honors.
• Make sure your staff is familiar with your menu. Customers ask questions; servers and other front-of-house employees (bussers, host, bartender, etc.) should be able to answer them. And that requires training and, ideally, tasting. Staff should be thoroughly trained about what’s on the menu, where the ingredients come from, how they’re prepared and so on, including specials. That’s where the preshift meeting comes in handy.
• Friendliness is next to godliness. Not scripted, nor overly familiar, not perfunctory. Hire people who are genuinely concerned about and open to other people; the mechanics of service can usually be trained if the basic personality is there.
• Good service is everyone’s responsibility. There are no such words as “that’s not my table” or “that’s not my job” in the properly managed foodservice establishment. Everyone should chip in to make sure guests get what they need, whether it’s another fork, or directions to where they’re going after dinner. That includes managers themselves.
• Speaking of managers, they should empower staff to make service decisions wherever possible. Within reason your servers should be able to do what it takes to make substitutions, address problems, and generally be flexible enough to meet customers’ needs. They should be armed with solutions, not impediments.
• Don’t try to save money by cutting back on service staff. This should be the last place you try to economize: See all the above.
Need more help improving your service? Contact Synergy for a free consultation.