The crew over at Uberbartools shared their post “The 7 Rules Of Excellent Service” on Liquor.com last month. In it, they posit that many hospitality businesses lose sight of the main reason they are there, i.e. to provide a great, flawless guest experience.
I appreciate that. I agree there is a certain amount of trust a guest has in their server or bartender to guide them through an enjoyable experience. I also agree that owners and management must take responsibility for ensuring this happens.
In reading through the points, however, I would slightly rearrange the seven points of distinction from what I feel is most important to least. I also have a few additional bits of information and points of, contention is too harsh a word, maybe clarification to add.
Time | Convenience | Satisfaction
I would rank this as top of the list of requirements for a hospitality business to remember. Your guests’ time, convenience, and satisfaction must be valued. They could have gone anywhere, but they visited your establishment. Breaking this down, because it encompasses quite a bit, would be:
- Time – Greet your guests as soon as they arrive. Whether by a hostess, server, bartender, or manager, a guest should never question whether they have been noticed by the staff.
- Convenience – Take a moment to ascertain why the guest is visiting today. This will let you know if they are in a hurry or if they are planning to spend a leisurely time with you. Then act accordingly. Don’t dawdle on guests who have a timeline to keep and don’t rush guests who are enjoying your ambiance for a little while.
- Satisfaction – Check in on your guests to make sure they are enjoying themselves.
Your customers are truly guests in your “house.” They should be greeted and treated as such. Make sure staff don’t get so caught up in the job and the day to day that they forget to treat those visiting their section appropriately.
This particular point I sit on the fence about. Never tell customers how busy, full, or short staffed you are. Well, yes and no. I get it. It isn’t the guests’ fault for the situation in which you find your venue. They should enjoy a fantastic experience regardless of whether you are properly staffed for your full house or not. But alerting the guest in some way shape or form that there may be a slight delay to your usual brisk service or that you are training a new server/bartender at least lets the guest know that, if there is something amiss, it isn’t typical, you are aware, and you are on top of it, and you plan to provide them with excellent service, regardless.
In this instance, management MUST visit each and every table to check on guests throughout the night. This is one of those times that the manager on duty has to get hands on, leading by example if you will. Yes, you may need to expo those trays or seat a few guests or run a check, because you do what you must to keep service moving, but you also have to play the gracious host.
You also must make sure your team is working as a team. Remind them to support each other, run drinks or food, fill an empty glass of water or tea… they need to be on the ball. This is their house as much as it is yours, and they are the front line, keeping the hospitality flowing.
Where’s My Stuff?
This I do agree with. A customer should never have to ask where their drink or meal order is. Does it happen? Of course. A server gets sidetracked because another order is ready to run, or another table asked for their check, or a million other things that can happen during service which can cause the server to forget to input an order. BUT, if the server is doing their job by checking in with each table and checking on drink levels they will notice something is wrong. Make sure your servers know to alert management immediately when this happens. Get the order in, get the kitchen working on it, then head out to the table and explain what happened. As a gesture, maybe offer a dessert at no cost or give a discount on the meal, but own it either way.
How Is Everything?
Another one I agree with. A delivered drink or meal requires immediate feedback. Once a drink or meal is delivered and the guest has had a chance to taste it, the server should most definitely stop by to make sure everything is cooked (or shaken or stirred) to the guests’ liking. There is nothing worse than getting a meal that is incorrect or a drink that is too strong and having to sit there and wait for a server to finally come by.
The server should deliver the items, run a cursory check to make sure everything LOOKS correct and the guests have everything they need to get started (forks, knives, spoons, straws, pepper, salt, ketchup, etc.) then come back a few minutes later to make sure everything tastes as good as it looks. This is also an ideal time for a manager to stop by the table to check in on the food as well as the service. A quick, “How is everything? Is Dave taking care of you?” That’s all it takes… easy, peasy.
Sorry, What Did You Say?
This one seems a little silly. Customers should be heard once is one of those items that seem impossible to ever achieve. No, no one wants to have to repeat themselves, but things happen. I loud and busy restaurant can make it difficult to hear a guest. I low talking guest or one who may be unsure of their menu choice is equally difficult. As long as the server makes all attempts to get the order correct including reading it (or saying it for those who don’t use an order pad) back to the table this one can be forgiven.
On the other side of it, if a guest is complaining, outside of making sure your staff reports complaints immediately and sends a manager over, the manager is still going to need to hear from the guest which means they have to repeat themselves. There are certainly ways to mitigate the frustration of this
- When the manager visits the guest s/he opens with, “I am so sorry your experience with us has been unacceptable. I understand “state problem in a succinct way here” happened, is that correct?” This gives the guest the chance to add more information or to correct what the manager has said. Then the manager can handle the problem.
- A little more radical is giving your staff full autonomy to make the situation right. If you have trained your staff properly and have put in place ways they can own a situation and make it right, you prove to your guests that your staff is as vested in the venue as you are and that the guest is the star of the show. Of course, I would suggest the manager still follow up and make sure all is well, but a server who is empowered to do what is necessary to make a guest happy (within reason, of course) is the best way to keep your guests happy.
Wow, That Guest Is A Jerk!
People have bad days. Some people have challenging personalities. When you work in a bar or restaurant, it is likely you will encounter both and more. This brings us to customers requiring respect, even the rude ones, which is another of those sticky rules and impossible situations. Absolutely, every guest deserves respect. And rudeness isn’t a reason for a server to be nasty or disrespectful back. BUT servers also deserve respect.
First, let’s chat about how servers react. I’ve been in an establishment when a guest, for whatever reason, felt she didn’t receive the best service (or maybe she was just having a crappy day and expected more) and was rude to the point of being nasty to the server. Was that okay? No. But what happened after was definitely unacceptable. Another server loudly commented, “Oh my god, really?! You don’t have to be such a bitch to her.” When that happens, bells, sirens, flags, should all be going off.
Unfortunately, in this particular instance, the owner of the establishment WAS RIGHT THERE AND DID NOTHING. He was so busy playing host to his friends that he wasn’t managing the house. Will that guest be back? Not likely, and neither will her friends or family. Having overheard the exchange will I be back? Also not likely. Look, I probably wouldn’t be nasty like the other guest just because of my personality and because I’m in the hospitality business, but I don’t want to patronize a place that the manager on duty (the owner in this case) is so out of touch that something like this would happen. And I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a server who butts into a situation and immediately makes it worse.
Now, let’s chat about rude guests. There are guests who are short in their communication style or are extremely particular about their food or where they sit or are in a hurry and they come across as rude. Those guests should be afforded patience and the staff should make all attempts to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. BUT there are also rude guests who are verbally abusive, who make ridiculous demands, who get drunk and boisterous, who are disrespectful to other guests, and who are disrespectful to staff. Make sure your staff knows the difference and know to alert management. Assess the situation and, if the guest needs to be asked to leave, make sure it happens. In this instance, your staff needs to know you have their back.
Yuck! What Is This?
Finally, we come to quality must be tested before a customer eats, drinks, or experiences anything. Yeah, okay, you want to make sure you are putting forth the best food and drink and the most fabulous experience your guest can get. However, don’t tie the hands of your staff. Allow their creativity to shine through. This doesn’t work with ALL of your guests, but you can certainly tell which ones it does work with.
For example, I am one of those people who ask a bartender in a craft cocktail bar what s/he’s been working on that hasn’t made it to the menu. I am curious and adventurous. I know it might be something I won’t like, but that’s part of the beauty of it. I also like to know what the chef is working on. I actively watch for chances to try new dishes before they are on the menu. And I’m not the only one. Yes, of course, you should have the best quality ingredients and your menu of drinks and dishes should be approved by the powers that be but allow a little wiggle room for some experimentation.
Running a restaurant or bar is not easy work. And making sure your staff are on the ball and providing excellent service to your guests is a daily job. Make sure you have a pre-shift meeting every day. Go over scenarios for training purposes. Tell the servers about specials, changes to menus, new items, and 86’d items. Communicate to them if there are staff issues or if there is a large group coming in or you are booked solid all night. Remind them that you have their back. Then have it. Your guests are everything and your staff must understand how they affect the business. Empower them to provide a flawless experience and support them as they make it happen.