Restaurant Guest Services

By TriMark R.W. Smith

Gain a competitive edge with these tips for delivering quality guest service and an enjoyable dining experience for customers.

Friendly and Responsive Service

Encourage servers to be polite and gracious from the get-go. Welcome customers with a reassuring smile as they arrive, and tailor customer greetings to reflect your establishment. If guests have taken time to make a reservation for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, acknowledge the event with sincere enthusiasm. Set your business apart from the competition by providing courteous, hospitable service throughout a customer’s visit, from the greeting to order taking to collecting their payment.

Read Back Orders

Preventing problems before they start is key to a favorable dining experience. Listen carefully to customers as they order, and then repeat orders back. Patience may be needed for customers pre-occupied with children, conversation, or a cell phone. An extra moment to confirm menu selections will save you time and avert a frustrating table-side proclamation, “This is not what I ordered!”.

Accommodate Special Orders

In today’s society of diverse cultures, special needs, food allergies and distinctive dietary lifestyles, accommodation of customer requests is essential. Train staff to be agreeable when asked to alter ingredients in a dish and to be helpful when a guest is struggling to identify an entrée befitting their needs. A manager should be called in if accommodating a special request would greatly affect kitchen operations. Best tip: be ready with tempting substitutions and appetizing options when a specific request cannot be honored.

The Value of Training

While it may often feel impossible to set aside adequate time for staff events, a successful foodservice operation starts with a comprehensive training program. Front of the house staff must be knowledgeable of the menu and specials, as well as taught techniques for engaging with customers and overcoming common obstacles. Schedule food tasting sessions where staff can sample menu items, learn about ingredients and cooking methods, and be given tips on how to describe dishes in ways that will entice and tantalize diners. On-going training will keep employees informed and motivated, and cross-training will strengthen your team’s ability to perform optimally when there is a staff change or absence.

Conquering Complaints

With social media, blogs, YouTube and other rapid-fire technologies, word of mouth spreads quickly. Disappointed guests are more likely to share their experience than their happier counterparts. A negative dining incident could wind up on review sites such as Yelp or Urban Spoon, greatly widening their reach. Make it your mantra to not let second-rate service cost you potential business. Handle complaints quickly by acknowledging the problem, taking prompt action, and then following up to confirm guest satisfaction. Even minor mishaps require meaningful apologies and swift fixes. Create a complaint response policy, train staff on how to address grievances, and outline procedures in your employee handbook. Your reaction to a soured situation will determine if a customer’s business is lost forever and if their loyalty is won for life!

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