Once your customer sets foot in the door, your front of house staff immediately sets the tone of the night- so we have given a few pointers to all the servers out there there are getting started in the field.
Identifying problem customers:
If you are accustom to waiting tables, the appearance of a problematic customer becomes quite obvious. Before even reaching the table, you will hear a negative comment about the walls of the venue, the volume of noise within the room and even a reminiscent comment of a previous dining experience. It’s already too much, but guess what, you have to stick it- and you can!
These type of customers vary; some may be argumentative or others just need attention, but in the end it’s very clear that being a pain gives them some sort of satisfaction. For this sole reason, ignore it. Of course you can’t overlook a complaint about the food, instead just let them talk to the chef if they wish, but don’t let them get away with a free meal for merely being rude. By focusing on the point of ‘service’ and being polite, dutiful and managing the table accordingly, your work is done. If anything, these people want to test you and walk away feeling better about themselves- so don’t get emotional about their attitude, just smile and walk it off.
Owning your mistakes:
We’ve all been there, fumbling at the table after missing a key ingredient from someone’s order or being visibly frustrated when a group of people complicate the entire menu. It’s annoying to even talk about, so we see the problem. However, being a server means being patient and attentive to each customers needs. Firs things first, if the restaurant is busy and you have 6 tables to manage, give them the news and keep them updated. By doing this, you can build a relationship with your customers, allowing them to feel comfortable and proceed with asking more questions for the duration of the night.
‘What do you recommend?’, ‘is the fish actually any good?’, these are some questions that will be asked, depending on your server level of approachability. Though, if this buddying relationship doesn’t flourish and instead your slapped with a cold couple ready to eat, it can be intimidating. That’s why, if the order goes wrong, you drop a plate or maybe you lose that warm smile you had at the beginning of service, own it. Let the table know that it’s been ‘flat out’ and you’re doing your best and apologize for delays or slip ups. Most of the time the customer will understand, because they can see that you are working hard, but if you’re not actively pursuing their needs, they will not respect any part of the service.
Over time you will have a knack towards managing the entire floor of the restaurant, understanding each table’s order in your own personal format. There are a few important factors to note when managing a large amount of customers; knowing the time frame so their food will be delivered without delay, remembering their orders and side orders, understanding allergies and wishes and of course keeping track of which table needs to be refreshed. It seems like a lot, but with practice and knowing the menu by heart, these tasks can be carried out with ease. Of course you need to have an inkling of responsibility and desire to fulfil each customer’s experience, because without that, problems in the kitchen or mess on the table throughout the night will build up and put a dark light on the service.
And remember, always look busy! Once you finish setting up a table and make your way to the kitchen, check up on each customer to see if they need something- never ignore the floor on your way out.
Once the pre-service brief is over, you know it’s time to pull those specials and upsell on beverages! In most cases, the drinks make the profit and can also make a customers dining experience more enjoyable. A wine with an appetizer, or a desert after the main meal- it all counts. The tricky part is to not seem like you have an objective when upselling, you can’t appear too obvious. No customer likes a pushy service, but an honest one. If you lightly explain the specials, adding flavor and charismatic sentiment to each description, they might very well swing from the menu and onto the specials board.
You can never force a guest into eating something they don’t want, merely because of a price tag, but letting them know the advantages and increase in taste experience can help you out. Also in terms of drinks, just slip the question in there during service- when they are eating and also during their waiting period. ‘Would you like to try our house Shiraz with your main?’ or ‘Would you like another glass?’- always smile and ask lightly, it can’t be forced.
Don’t have a bad attitude:
Out of all these pointers, the most important tip to give to servers is to NOT have a bad attitude. This trait is disastrous and can ruin your night, along with each of your guests. Once a customer sees a sour face, they are instantly turned off, regardless of the food served in front of them. Also manage your tone of voice, monotone doesn’t work and whiny is just out of the question- be sure to listen and be accommodating. With all this being said, a server accounts for majority of the customer’s experience, so do your best, be honest and always look busy!