Years spent in the hospitality industry, 15 to be exact, taught me a lot of valuable lessons about excellent customer service. Different venues, from private country clubs to chic lounges to five diamond hotels, required something a bit different from me, but there was always one constant – great service.
Now when I dine out or meet up with friends after work for a drink or a quick bite I want good service, yet I’m sometimes disappointed. That being said I know most restaurants, lounges and hotels don’t offer a course on quality customer care for their wait staff, they simply expect you to do your job and provide superior service. I also realize there are those diners that lack every vestige of etiquette deserving of good service. I’m proposing your professionalism focus on your service regardless of those at the table.
Here are my suggestions for offering top notch, quality customer care wherever your place of employment. These are transferrable skills that will take you from the funky, eclectic diner on the corner to the posh, luxurious private club on the hill. And by the way, you can make phenomenal tips at both (why any wait tables to begin with) – it all comes down to providing excellent service.
Show up 15 minutes before your shift starts well groomed and dressed in freshly laundered attire.
- Honestly, wrinkled shirts are a faux pas. You are a professional and darn good at what you do – look the part!
- A few extra minutes to secure your float, ensure your section is ready to go and greet your colleagues is time well spent
Be Familiar With The menu
- What is the soup of the day, chef’s special and best vegetarian option. Take time to look at the feature sheet before you approach your customers. Where appropriate ask to sample new items on the menu before your shift starts.
- Know what’s on tap.
- It is always a good idea to have a few suggestions to offer indecisive or finicky eaters – it also helps you spend less time at tables that would otherwise suck your time during a busy rush.
- Learn the art of wine pairing – read a book, take a class and check out Nat Decants
Keep a Professional Distance
- Your goal is not to make new BFF’s, you’re there to serve your clients. Don’t lean on the table or invade the personal space of the diner at the edge of the booth.
- Be present but don’t hover. Do check in with each course, but not too often. When it comes time to pay, don’t stand there while they sign the credit card slip!
When possible, serve ladies first
- Elegance and etiquette never go out of style – even at the pub
Speaking of Ladies…
- Girls, no matter where you work there is an appropriate style of dress when serving tables. You can look fabulous, even sexy, without crossing the line to trashy. Keep everything well contained. Enough said.
Multitask through your section
- Take a table their bill while dropping off drinks to another while picking up dirties from another – there is always something to do.
Bus your own section
- If your bus boy is busy, step up – no one wants to stare at dirty table or glass ware, and you want to make sure there is a place for dessert they’re sure to order.
- This includes tables in sections that aren’t your own – be a team player.
Suggest Favorites from the Menu
- When you up-sell to your clients, the bill goes up and so does… your tip!
- After the initial order is placed don’t be shy in recommending an excellent appetizer – but be specific. It’s ok if they say no, and they won’t be offended.
- Rather than asking if they would like anything else at the end of their meal, suggest the Crème Brule and a cappuccino. Better yet, present a visual. If there is a dessert tray bring it with you and recommend the chocolate cheesecake.
- Don’t forget to take good care of your support staff. Your hostess and bartender, the bussers and kitchen staff all deserve a generous tip out – you can’t do what you do without them. Ultimately a great dining experience is a team effort. Everyone contributes and helps ensure your clients will be back. Your generosity also ensures your team takes good care of you.
Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org