When a waiter first starts on the job, they may approach every table they serve the same from their introduction until they deliver the check. As they gain experience, you should expect to see them vary their approach from table to table, depending on the type of people dining. The best waiters can size up their tables quickly and tailor their approach to each guest. They’ll understand that a family with young children requires a different type of service than a couple enjoying a bottle of wine with their meal.
If your customers experience excellent service at your restaurant, they’re more likely to forgive any mistakes or shortcomings during their meal and leave happy. Here are five ways that your wait staff can personalize their service to benefit themselves and the restaurant.
1. Customizing an Introduction
Find a polite way to get the table’s attention. It may be as simple as placing a hand on the table. Whatever it is, make sure it is polite and not pushy. Saying things like “I’ll be taking care of you this evening,” is somewhat outdated and not necessary. However, approaching the table with a smile, eye contact, and a friendly tone of voice goes a long way to making a good first impression.
Most chain restaurants are moving away from a scripted pitch and moving towards more personalized service. Train staff to pay attention to things like body language, eye contact, and offhand remarks to get a better idea of what type of dining experience the diners are expecting.
A good question to ask each table is, “Have you been here before?” If they haven’t, then your servers know they can suggest the most popular dishes and drinks without sounding like a broken record. For repeat customers, they can suggest new menu items or less noticeable items. Keep the suggestions short, and don’t worry if the customers choose something that wasn’t recommended. They’ll still appreciate the effort.
If they ask if a particular dish is good, they’re more than likely wondering if it is popular and many people like it, not if their server likes it. Tell your staff to be enthusiastic about popular dishes even if they don’t particularly care for it.
2. Determine the Type of Dinner
Appetizers and drinks should always be offered to diners. Not only does it make the restaurant more money, but it also shows what type of dinner it’ll be. If the customers skip the starters and ask for water, they probably want just to sit down and eat and leave. A bottle of wine and appetizers to share with the table indicates a lively and potentially extended dining experience. While the waiters should still offer dessert to the first type of customer, a little more effort could go into describing the desserts with the second group. The first table will appreciate their waters being quietly refilled while the second group might be open to new drink suggestions throughout the meal.
Knowing the dynamic of a table can help waiters adjust their approach. A group deep in conversation probably doesn’t want to be interrupted too often. Every table should receive the same quality of service, but not every table requires the same type of service.
3. Determine How Much Will Be Ordered
A simple way for waitstaff to estimate how much food will be ordered by a table is to evaluate how guests have allotted the space on their table. If a customer is sitting by a table with a newspaper spread open next to them, they probably won’t be interested in bigger appetizers that are good for sharing. A couple that leaves a space open between them might be looking for a shared dish. Reading the table helps waitstaff customize their offerings.
4. Cater to the Kids
When parents take their kids out to eat, they usually have their fingers crossed that the experience will go smoothly. Customers will appreciate waitstaff making an extra effort to help the meal be enjoyable for everyone. If a child says they don’t like green things, don’t put garnish on their plate. When it comes time for dessert, give the menu quietly to the mom or dad, or ask them discretely, so there’s not a scene when they are denied dessert.
5. Get the Check Right
When customers are ready to leave the restaurant, they don’t want to be held up by an incorrect bill or having to wait too long to get the check. However, they also don’t want to be handed the check halfway through their meal and feel rushed to leave. Determine a standard for your restaurant, so checks are handled the same every time, and stress the importance of accuracy when your waitstaff calculate the check.
Your restaurant’s customer service is what sets you apart from your competitors. By understanding how to read tables and adjusting the service depending on the customer, your diners will leave feeling like they had a meal and experience personalized to them.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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