I was reminded the other day how important a good server is to the success of your restaurant. I went to a local franchise for dinner on Saturday, and the server did a great job of making our meal a very pleasant time.
One of the people that was joining us for dinner made a wrong turn, and they were late arriving. The server came to take our drink order, and when she found out that we were going to be waiting for the missing person before ordering, made a few great appetizer suggestions.
When the person we were waiting for arrived, the server was watching, and quickly came by to take the persons drink order. Then after an appropriate amount of time, came back to take our dinner order. She checked back with us a few times during the meal, but she didn’t hover over our table. She did, however, make herself available if we needed her.
At the end of the meal we were in a bit of a rush, so she quickly got us check out and out the door.
There were a few things about the experience that struck me, and as a restaurant owner or manager you need to pay attention to with your servers if you want to be successful.
Our server did a great job of mentioning a few specific appetizers on the menu, and told us why she was recommending them to us: “This always gets great compliments” or “There is enough food with this app for the table to share.”
To often the server comes by the table and asks, “Would you like to order an appetizer?” There’s no suggestions, and no reason to say yes. Sometimes guests are undecided about whether or not to get an appetizer or dessert, and many of them are just looking for an excuse to say yes. By making specific suggestions, you increase the chances that they will order something extra from the menu. It’s those extra items that increase check averages, and increases the restaurants profits. Higher check averages also increase the servers tips, which will give them a reason not to leave to work for your competitor.
Be Present, but Don’t Hover
Our server did a nice job of being available when we needed her, but without intruding on our time together. It was much better than having a server that makes you feel like your being rushed, or a server that drops off the food, then disappears for long stretches of time.
I know that servers will go into the back to take care of their side work, but they need to remember that their priority has to be customer service. After all, that is why they are on your staff in the first place
I can forgive a bad experience with a server, but if it happens consistently I will find a new restaurant to frequent.
It Comes Down To Training
One bad server experience can be written off as just a bad server, but multiple bad experiences has to be blamed on management. You must have a training program in place for your servers when you first hire them, and then do periodic training sessions after that. And training does not mean having them follow behind one of the veterans for a few days. It means teaching them to do things the way you want them done.
Your servers are the front line of customer service. They can make or break you restaurant operation. Make sure your servers are properly trained, then watch how they interact with the customers. Don’t be afraid to pull them aside to make suggestions on how they can do their job better.